Home Wine Business Editorial Three Tier Talk What Is the Supplier Obligation?

What Is the Supplier Obligation?


I have two kids. They are wonderful kids and like siblings, they argue about nearly everything. Who does what? Who is responsible for what and who gets credit for what? Those are my kids struggles, but that same scenario can play out with my supplier clients. Suppliers that are with ANY distributor lament the lack of effort on behalf of their brand. Suppliers, like my kids, think that mom and dad will handle it all, and they will be the recipient of the benefits of being our kids or with distribution. That is just not true!

The way the adult beverage world works now is that major suppliers are really logistic companies for brands. They deliver, they collect, and they repeat. Unless, as I have always stated, you are one of the chosen ones, the top 300 brands nationally, they will just be a resource for your brand to make it to a shelf or back bar somewhere in America.

What is the supplier obligation in the three tier system and how can any maker support their own success? We work with over 114 SKU’s and 24 suppliers and each supplier is different and approaches the sales process differently. Some makers are hobbyist and some make a craft product and depend on sales to support their life. The enthusiast or “weekend-er” is hard for us to handle. If you are eager enough to be in this business, then you cannot be an enthusiast. You will lose your ass. No doubt about it. You will be outspent, out sold, and basically outperformed by brands that pay 100% more attention then you do. It is ok the be that “guy or gal” but set your expectations accordingly, because the liquor business will spit you out.

The best client and the best supplier is the supplier that is 100% engaged.

  1. Be available to your brand ambassador, sales arm, distributor and us.
  2. Visit the market UNANNOUNCED – visiting a market announced with ride alongs will only paint the very best picture. Surprise market visits will show you what your distributor and sales teams are really doing. Do you ever call your kids and tell them EXACTLY when you will be home, of course you do not.
  3. Over support with marketing slicks, POS and POP material. In a crowded marketplace consumers will shop visually. Be ready for visual selling
  4. Know your rights- bother your distributor for account info, depletion reports, and market reaction documents. This is your right and will make you more powerful in your market. Last week we had a CA sales person visit 108 accounts in a five day period. That same period for that same brand, a big 5 distributor rep showed the brand 16 times. If you look up bogus in the dictionary, that would be the definition.  
  5. Know that now is the time. If it does not happen in the next 75 days from a selling perspective, it will not happen at all and for sure not again until March 2018. My dad, a globally known liquor retailer, would say the following, “if you lose the Super Bowl the regular season record does not matter!” Who agrees with that??
  6. Take responsibility! Whether you are with a small distributor, large distributor or a disruptor like LibDib, it is still the makers responsibility to fight for your brand.  Our company fights for suppliers all the time but our bark is nothing compared to a maker bite and paying attention in a given market.
  7. Pull data. TTB and state websites have data about license address, locations, spend, business size and other critical info to help pinpoint the sale opportunity.  Do the work and the results will come.
  8. Let your pricing vary by channel, location and incentive

4th quarter is when lookers become buyers. We at BevStrat spend 9 months selling, making relationships, identifying opportunity and pinpointing attention points for 4th quarter. The supplier responsibility is to be right there with whomever they choose to support the brands they own. A supplier has the preverbal one child in their brand, SWS has 9000 children and like my own family, it is impossible to pick a favorite.

Your obligation, Mr. Supplier, is to watch, nurture, protect and pay attention to your kids!

Brian RosenThree Tier Talk
by Brian Rosen, www.BevStrat.com

Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.

He can be reached at @rosenretail or [email protected]

More information and articles by Brian Rosen



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