UK +44 (0) 1753 867 979 - AUS +61 (0)2 8915 6263 english french german


Ways to manage two years of uncertainty

Here’s a shocker: I’m predicting that in the next two years the retailers who meet shoppers’ needs best will gain market share at the expense of those who lose focus. And there’s more. I believe the suppliers who best meet... Read More

New suppliers are kept out by buyers but it should be an open invitation

How is it that Waitrose has captured the market in being approachable to new suppliers? It gets the true innovation to market first every time. Even though the big four desperately need to differentiate, getting a meeting with any one... Read More

The sales job has changed, but grocery always leads the way

I thought it was now accepted that relationship in selling is not as important as it was. But James Halliwell’s feature (‘Death of a salesman?’, 20 August, p28) revealed 75% disagree that a data-driven approach, rather than a relationship-based one, helps make... Read More

Planning a Cost Price Increase? Speak to us first…

With your customers wanting lower prices whilst at the same time your costs are going up we know that getting a cost price increase away is one of the most challenging commercial situations suppliers can face – with wide ranging... Read More

Morrisons are not invisible to the Groceries Code Adjudicator

So something good DID come of the Tesco investigation. In my speech at last year’s GCA conference, I referenced unbalanced demands issued by Morrisons to its suppliers. Little did I know, around the same time (in June and July 2015)... Read More

Sentinel now offer consumer marketing training workshops via our partnership with Geneva based company ‘Magnetic’

Consumer and Brand Marketing Training We have teamed up with Magnetic, a creative and strategic consumer marketing company. Magnetic have a unique approach to consumer and brand marketing training, coaching and mentoring. They show you how to make your marketing... Read More

Suppliers must make the effort to walk the store, if nothing else

Account managers know they should do store visits, but once they are listed it’s the first routine they drop. Higher up the organisation it gets worse; sales directors are too important. Wandering around shops is job of the retail bosses,... Read More

Remove barriers to communication, but beware barking dogs

In selling, information is king and the best source of customer information is, of course, your customer. It’s a nice old-fashioned truism and with all the talk of collaboration these days we should dust off some of these pearls and... Read More

The language might have changed, but the pressure is the same

Put your hands in the air and give me your money - this is a stick-up". Or as it's now said: "Hold hands and play fair, I request your partnership investment - this is an opportunity." It's fascinating how retailer... Read More

Asda is back in play: watertight ways to deal with desperation

After months of silence and reorganisation, Asda is now engaging with its suppliers on 2016 plans. It wants your money into cost of goods to bring down the everyday price, following Tesco beautifully. Sainsbury’s has also made a similar play... Read More

Adjudicator Tacon's probe into category captaincy to stir up new hornet's nes

Adjudicator Tacon's probe into category captaincy to stir up new hornet's nest After a 355-day investigation into the UK’s biggest retailer, Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon this week delivered her verdict on the “shocking” breaches of the Code by Tesco’s... Read More

Holland & Barrett accused of squeezing suppliers

Holland and Barrett is being accused of squeezing small businesses after it sent a letter to suppliers demanding contributions to its investment plan. In a letter this month, seen by the BBC, the high street retailer says it wants a... Read More

Innovation can help unlock new customer attitudes for a new era

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot. But the Grinch, who lived just North of Whoville, did not! Whether you are a supplier-Who or a supplier-Grinch this year depends on how you are coming through range rationalisation, I... Read More

National account managers should be negotiators, not salesmen

If your sales team struggles with the difference between selling and negotiation, here is an illustration for them. You will have witnessed the travesty that is the estate agent. While selling they try their best to match your property to... Read More

Innovation: it's not just down to brands to be responsible

It’s such a great time to be involved in grocery, don’t you think? There’s so much going on. To quote IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch: “What excites me the most is every type of company, new and old, large and... Read More

Deal with discounters at a level you can sustain even if you double or treble sales

The discounter freight train has got up a head of steam and is cruising past the competition to record shares. Supermarket volumes last month fell year on year for the first time since 2014 and we also have underlying deflation... Read More

Promotion planning: make them relevant to shopper needs

Selling in grocery is not just selling a product or a promotion - it includes selling a plan and sometimes a vision. In some categories and customers there has been an overnight change in buyer style to one of collaboration,... Read More

GSCOP press coverage is essential: shoppers have a right to know

The YouGov survey this week reported improvement across the board on retailer collaborative measures versus one year ago. The GCA team is delighted with the gradual progress, recognising there is still a lot to do and that we must not... Read More

Is GSCOP working for you? Action required - tell me all about it!

In the late 1990s, changes in EU and UK competition law demanded that suppliers stopped influencing or dictating retail pricing. When a buyer moaned about the margin on products, the supplier response changed to an awkward dialogue for a while:... Read More

Waitrose trials 'Pick Your Own Offers' scheme in bid to boost myWaitrose card

Waitrose is planning a bold makeover of its loyalty card scheme by allowing consumers to choose which products they receive promotional offers on. The ‘Pick Your Own Offers’ scheme, which is currently being trialled at five Waitrose stores, will give shoppers... Read More

Discounters: it's time fmcg suppliers got real. But they need help from retailers

OK, so are we are all agreed discounter share growth holds risks for UK consumers and suppliers as well as the obvious threat to retailers? Shoppers walk their way blindly into a world of low choice and suspect imports, while... Read More

David Sables Question To Alex Simpson - Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum Keynote Seminar

Our CEO David Sables attended the Westminter Food & Nutrition Forum Keynote Seminar and had the opportunity to speak with Alex Simpson. Transcript Lord Cameron of Dillington Yes, any questions from the floor. David Sables: Sentinel Management Consultants. We help... Read More

Adjudicator Christine Tacon issues second survey to nail 'notorious' buyers

Adjudicator Christine Tacon is to call on thousands of suppliers to help her root out “notorious” buyers who have been systematically breaching the Groceries Code. On Monday, Tacon will start contacting an estimated 8,000 suppliers asking them to take part... Read More

It's back to the all-powerful buyer. For better or for worse?

Analysts saying the supers must ‘drop their prices’ to compete is mildly irritating. Dalton Philips proved that retailers funding price cuts with the same operation reduces profit and compounds the problem. Too much stock tied up in extended ranges means... Read More

Tesco calls in consultants to oversee drastic range review

Decisions over the future of thousands of lines at Tesco are being left in the hands of management consultants, suppliers warned this week. The Grocer can reveal the UK's biggest retailer has tasked Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to conduct a... Read More

Panorama - Trouble at Tesco

Tesco is losing customers, its share price is down and its profits have taken a tumble. As it faces a criminal investigation over its accounting practices, Kamal Ahmed investigates what's really gone wrong inside Tesco. Watch On iPlayer Read More

Tesco accused of 'blunderbuss' approach in scrapping supplier fees

Tesco’s move to scrap supplier fees and instead focus on getting the lowest prices upfront has been greeted with scepticism by leading consultants who describe is as “old-fashioned” and taking a “blunderbuss approach”. Read More Read More

Premier is following a well-established supermarket playbook

The real surprise about Premier Foods’ demands for payment from suppliers is not that the company is doing it, but that it’s suddenly in the spotlight. Newsnight covered it last night. The Daily Wail shrilled: “Mr Kipling’s exceedingly murky plot... Read More

GSCOP compliance is not under control within our system

The Tesco debacle has really brought supplier treatment to the top of the agenda. Me, I've always helped suppliers learn how to deal with it in a savvy yet strategically sound way rather than grumble. If you want to play... Read More

Podcast - Tesco Trouble at the Top

Tesco is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over an alleged black hole in its accounts. Simon Cox tells the story of Tesco's biggest crisis to date. Download Podcast (right click & "save target as / link as") Read More

How to Sell: Help the big four to reduce their stock and create differentiation

Coverage of the Tesco scandal has oscillated between accounting misdemeanour and supplier treatment. Either way, this story is of great interest and distaste to the British public. A public whose spending loyalties the retailers compete for - and now a... Read More

TescoGate: Supermarket is rudderless and 'fighting fires' in wake of suspensions

The suspension of Dan Jago, head of wine, and seven other directors at Tesco has left the retailer rudderless and “fighting fires” as it heads into Christmas and the busiest trading period of the year. Read More Read More

The hidden world of supplying a supermarket

Stack it and sell it. What could be more simple when it comes to the world of the supermarkets? But in this multi billion pound industry, there's a complex relationship between the retailers and the companies who supply the many... Read More

Tesco's fall from grace compounded by accounting error

TESCO has come a long way since its modest birth in 1919 on a wind-swept Homerton market stall deep in the heart of London's East End. So too has its share price. But of late not in a way that... Read More

Tesco suspensions add to chaos at top

An investigation into Tesco’s £250 million accounting crisis has prompted the suspension of a further three executives, stoking concern about disruption to its preparations for the crucial Christmas shopping season. Tesco has sent home Dan Jago, its category director for... Read More

How Tesco put the squeeze on suppliers

A year ago, Tesco received an eccentric complaint. Gary Davies, a wedding photographer from Essex, sent the supermarket an open letter bemoaning the disappearance of Branston baked beans from its shelves. “Dear Tesco,” Davies wrote, “Yet again you’ve attempted to... Read More

Hidden fees fuel a third of supermarket profits: Suppliers charged £80,000 just to get new products on store shelves

Supermarkets are making as much as a third of their profits from suppliers by demanding the type of charges that have led to the accounting scandal at Tesco, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. The sums include penalty charges for... Read More

Discounter copycats are a threat to brands and consumers

Imagine you’ve been out of the country for five years and now you are walking around an Aldi or Lidl. You’d be taken aback, not by the food quality or the outstanding retail strategy, more by the number of suppliers... Read More

Help to put the ‘joint’ part back into Tesco’s joint business plans

So much has been written regarding the demise of Philip Clarke and the new David Lewis era at Tesco that you may be tired of it by now. However, do not underestimate just how seismic a shift this is for... Read More

A reply to ‘Suppliers angry as retailers keep digging for old debts’

In reference to your article ‘Suppliers angry as retailers keep digging for old debts’ (9 August, p5), please add me to your huge list of cynics. Eight of our 10 large retailers have made voluntary commitments to time-limit forensic audits... Read More

Don't skirt around the point - there really is no harm in asking!

We are constantly fed a myth-soup about selling and negotiation; like win-win and making buyers happy. Buyers don’t choose to go with your proposal because they like you. They choose to go with you because it is in their best... Read More

Why not just outlaw the obviously unfair trading practices?

I’m often accused of emotive language when discussing the Groceries Code Adjudicator. Well yes! Look, it’s not disputed that there are unfair practices afoot. Frankly, it’s a bit odd that more people are not emotional about it. Suppliers are very... Read More

Be careful what you share with customers: keep your advantage

Do retailers’ own brands get an advantage from the information we share? I researched this question before addressing policymakers and the OFT last week at the Retail Symposium. The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. More interesting, though, is the astonishing... Read More

Here’s your chance to tell the Adjudicator what you’re thinking

Yes, I know, you could quote me saying the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) has no real teeth. And yes, I’ve quoted suppliers who say: “invoke GSCOP? I might as well torch my factory”. Look, the code of practice is a... Read More

Are major retailers easier to deal with than wounded animals?

We are witnessing a major shift in buying habits away from the big supers and into convenience formats. It’s probably the biggest change to your sales operation in working memory. The share shift into the multiples was much more gradual.... Read More

Make it pay while the sun shines: strategic and sensible selling

How’s the weather been for your business recently? Blustery customer rhetoric, floods of delisting threats and tidal waves of year-end demands? It’s been a winter of discontent for most of the multiples, exacerbated by truly awful Christmas trading. They’ve had... Read More

Calamity can provide an excellent customer service opportunity

I'm writing this in Datchet, Berkshire, where I'm stranded at home due to the flooding. My mail will not get here today, nor will there be a collection. The roads in and out are blocked. Occasionally, the power comes on... Read More

The Big Four all had a Disastrous Christmas – Beware The Fallout

So how was Christmas for you? You were hoping for an iPad, and got a cookbook. Well, maybe you didn’t get what you wanted but still, look on the bright side, you could be Dalton Philips. The pressure facing Morison’s... Read More

Stop Guaranteeing Retailer Margin! You don’t Decide the RSP

Right now, many suppliers will be arguing with customers over payments for the joint business plan. Commitments weren’t met, and results failed to generate the money you are being harassed to just pay anyway. Too many suppliers pay up because... Read More

Ever Been Caught New-Skilling A Buyer? You Sounded Insincere

Communication skills are trainable, yes, but with any new skill it takes practice until you get proficient. If done effortlessly and totally naturally, then your technique will be dynamite. Like when learning to drive a car, you know you've got... Read More

'The Art of Selling' Hasn't Died - It's Just Changed Shape a Bit

Here's a thing. Have you noticed that astute young sales directors and wise old experienced ones seem in agreement that the 'art of selling' has died in grocery? Both types see that our current sales forces are technology-obsessed, process-driven and... Read More

Selling Requires you to Adapt your Style to the Situation at Hand

Seeing the despairing face of the Asda food hall manager, I paused. He was sitting at his desk, looking at a hand-written report. I always waited for a nod before walking in. This guy was a nightmare - the type... Read More

Trust, Commitment and Insight Needed for Joint Planning

Looking back, visionary joint planning has proved elusive. Suppliers have never really committed to it because it's never long before the customer starts demanding short-term gains and the whole thing collapses. Many want to take a longer-term collaborative view, but... Read More

Without Indomitable Spirit, You may not be cut out for a Sales Role

I'm often asked what makes a good salesperson. It's obvious, isn't it? Great salespeople are likeable, respectable, not up themselves, positive, persistent, skilled communicators, great with facts, persuasive with figures and ambitious team players. Plus, you need an element of... Read More

Closing Time: Making a Specific Proposal is Key to Closing a Sale

From time to time, I see it as my duty to dismantle some of the old myths of selling. How about this one: ‘ABC — Always Be Closing’. What on earth does that mean? Don’t buy it. This is an... Read More

There are no two-day courses to ensure buyer collaboration

How to sell? Well, that rather depends : on what you are selling. There’s the ‘technical sell’ in engineering, the ‘pity sell’ if you are door-to-door, the ‘pressure sell’ for double glazing or, of course, the ‘mis-sell’ if you’re in... Read More

Get crunching with the numbers - it can transform results

Read these words: footfall, basket spend, purchase frequency, cash cycle, margin mix, promotional mix, shelf productivity, stock investment, stock cover, waste reduction, mark-downs. Feeling a bit nauseous? Don’t assume the only way to motivate your customer is by conceding margin... Read More

A Warning For Suppliers

Have you noticed the retailers talking about their wonderful supplier relations, just when the new Groceries Code Adjudicator is announced? Funny that. Christine Tacon seems keen to do her bit to ensure fair play in the supply chain. However, I... Read More

Buyers will only listen if they think they need your help

Let's say you can clearly see that a customer is missing a trick in category. There is a gap in their range for a product that has shown huge incremental category sales where you have introduced it in other customers,... Read More

With every call, find out something new about your customer

Twenty five years ago, selling in the grocery industry it was all very relationship dependent. The old lags slapped each others’ backs and told jokes. Then powerful customers became more demanding and relationship went out the window. Smarter sales teams... Read More

Know your promotion objectives before you select a promotion

Have you ever got to the checkout and been told: “These are on bogof so you can have another one free”? Or have you been notified of deals you were unaware of by the self-scanner? OK, you saved money, and... Read More

Who says that selling is weak? That's just wrong

At a recent round or sales training events staged by the IGD, the speaker announced that justifying yourself was weak, and the more you sell the weaker you look. Sorry. That’s wrong. If you are part of a selling organisation... Read More

Tesco’s bad record on collaboration speaks for itself

The latest round of talk about closer collaboration with suppliers made me smile. Many relationship-hungry suppliers reserve insight and innovation for the Tesco account — only to find disappointment around the corner. Tesco’s behaviour then backfires, as suppliers become cautious... Read More

Don't just focus on promotions, there are other business drivers

OK: you’re running a sales organisation and you think you spend most of your time on the right priorities. Put it to the test, and start with the accounts teams. You may find that 8o% of a national account manager’s... Read More

Top-to-top meetings are very important, but handle with care

I have in my hand a piece of paper,” says the CEO, stepping down from the company jet. “During my two-day market tour with Mr Wonderful, the head of Superchain, we have redefined a way of doing business. Our difficulties... Read More

Britvic Is In For A Squeeze Over Fruit Shoot

As I was gasping for a drink on a red hot summer's day at Alton Towers 12 years ago, a team of samplers came to the rescue with a cold, uniquely packaged juice drink the new Fruit Shoot. I feel... Read More

Identifying Who You Are Selling To Is Key, Not Just How You Sell

It was brilliant. It had a rip-tape case, which saves time stacking shelves. He presented it to the buyer and got: “Yeah, all right, but you should tell the bloke over there.” So he went to the logistics office and... Read More

Selling Is All About What The Buyer Wants, Not What You Want

In the UK we hate salespeople, but lawyers have always had our unconditional respect. Bizarrely,in the US it's the other way round: there is a huge stigma to being a lawyer while sales is a profession of choice. The ambulance... Read More

Be Specific About What It Is You Are Selling Before You Start To Sell

I ask account managers: "Which page do you write first when putting together a customer presentation?" They answer: "Page one, of course". And there you have it. The result is a meandering deck of fabulous information misfiring in all directions. ... Read More

Play Hard Nosed Buyers At Their Own Game

Many were appalled by the recent stories of Waitrose imposing £60 fines for deliveries made 45 minutes late. But in truth, this is just Waitrose catching up on the more aggressive side of the procurement job. Imposing supply fines is... Read More

What Do Buyers Need? To Be Concise And Ask "Route One" Questions

So the UK furniture salesman was always a bit embarrassed that he was selling bigger chairs designed for the American market. One day a major buyer visited his stand at the NEC, "This chair looks bigger than normal," she said,... Read More

Farmers Need The Skills To Fight Back

Last month the government responded to proposed amendments on the Groceries Code Adjudicator bill and financial penalties were rejected.  You should read publications on this stuff! Apart from the comedy of MPs defining what an indirect supplier is, you’ll see... Read More

Suppliers Must Learn To Look After Themselves

At Sentinel we advise suppliers in their dealings with supermarkets. With our team of ex-buyers and suppliers we specialise in overcoming the supermarkets' much-publicised tactics and pressure to help even the tables. Since the introduction of GSCOP in April, we... Read More

In The News