June 16, 2022

It takes two: Buyer-supplier relationships grounded in data

We explore how Botanica and their retail partner, Mary Mart, have been able to align on smart & efficient processes with Bridge.
Written by
Joe Cullen
Published on
June 16, 2022
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The partnership between buyers and suppliers is often a delicate dance. When this partnership falls out of sync, both parties risk costly supply chain errors. Headset’s stock-replenishment solution, Bridge, can help retailers and their approved brand partners regain their footing by facilitating co-led marketing and inventory initiatives. Headset explores how Washington-based Botanica and their retail partner, Mary Mart, have been able to align on smarter, more efficient processes around supply chain management.

Cue the music

Buyer-supplier relationships are critical to any industry’s supply chain, and they’re especially formative for nascent industries like cannabis that sit atop foundations still pliable and amenable to change. Not only do these relationships influence how product moves between buyer and supplier, but their impact ultimately trickles down to the end-consumer, who has come to rely on product that is both fresh and readily available for consumption. Have you ever gone to a retail location only to find that your favorite edible is out-of-stock?

In markets like Washington, where the median retailer carries more than 1500 distinct products, supply chain management can easily turn sour when retailers and brands aren’t working in lockstep. In April 2021, Headset found that nearly 300 of those 1500 products hadn’t sold after 90 days on the shelves. Though various inputs, such as merchandising, marketing and product quality, influence product performance, this surplus of “dead-weight” is likely symptomatic of poor buyer-supplier relationships, ones that lack the tools and insights to facilitate collaborative, data-driven conversations about what to buy, when to buy, and how to move low-velocity (or dare I say, no-velocity) items.

The brand leading the dance

Washington-based Botanica, parent company to household brands like Mr. Moxey’s, Spot, & Journeyman, is helping turn this narrative around. From their artisan mints, producing eight of the top 10 sellers in the segment, to their juicy Journeyman jellies (nice alliteration, right?), which are some of the top-selling edibles in the state, Botanica’s illustrious product line can be found in 270+ retail locations across Washington. And behind each of these retail partnerships stands Botanica’s team of data-savvy account managers, who are leveraging Headset to create a more efficient buyer-supplier network.

With help from Headset’s stock-replenishment solution called Bridge, Botanica is building buyer-supplier relationships grounded in data and transparency. By giving brands a window into their products’ performance at partnering retail locations, Bridge affords brands the opportunity to pinpoint supply chain inefficiencies & proactively address them. McKenzie Brooks, one of Botanica’s regional account managers, uses Bridge’s inventory dashboard on a daily basis to “look for products that aren’t moving [in retail stores] and see why…,” prompting her to dig deeper into existing sales strategies — “do I need to better educate retail staff, run a vendor day…what do I need to do to encourage this product to move?”

Finding the beat

This added layer of visibility enables the team to evaluate promotional impact, sales velocity, and stock levels in real-time, and when stock gets too low, proactively reach out to the retailer with an order proposal. Without this data, Botanica’s most veteran Bridge-user Coco Stagner says that “you’re going in blind to a certain degree.” Former Marketing Coordinator, Matthew Evert, echoes this sentiment, adding that Bridge data creates a “level playing field…it’s empirical, it is what it is, and we’re able to have honest conversations [with our retail partners].”

By arming brand reps with real-time product insights, Bridge helps eliminate unnecessary back and forth between brands and retail purchasing teams. Botanica’s account managers estimate that they’re saving nearly two hours per day when managing Bridge-connected retailers. The alternative? When retailers aren’t connected through Bridge, Botanica resorts to online menu-scraping, “which isn’t always accurate,” says Account Manager, Aaron Burr. And those inaccuracies could lead brands to propose orders that don’t make sense for their retail partners, a position brands should be wary of Aaron warns: “You don’t want to be the company overloading retailers with products they don’t need.”

Synchronized success

In addition to improving buyer-supplier communication, Bridge also helps retailers maintain healthy, consistent inventory turnover. In a recent study, Headset found that the median Bridge connected retailer had 19.6% fewer out of stock events* than the median non-Bridge connected retailer in 2021. Given the median store's sales per product per day, this out-of-stock discrepancy could translate to savings of nearly $131,000 per year.

Retailers are seeing this trend play out in their own stores and lauding the benefits of working with brands that are leaning into Bridge. Luigi Troche, head purchaser for Washington-based Mary Mart, manages 150-200 brands in-store and attests that “we tend to have better relationships with Bridge connected vendors, mainly because they’re more active.” Luigi continues, “for those who aren’t on Bridge, they don’t have any idea of where their numbers are…they’re trying to find their way in the dark.”

Luigi feels like Botanica, one of their brand partners, is on “auto-pilot” at this point: “I don’t worry about their account at all…if I could do that with more brands, that would take a huge workload off my plate.” With so many SKUs to manage, Luigi appreciates the extra set of eyes from Bridge-connected partners, which affords him more time to focus on the accounts that “require a more hands-on, direct approach.”

Clumsy footing

These benefits are not to say that Bridge is without potential risks, in part why retailers reserve the right to sever Bridge connections with brands at any point. Though infrequent, Luigi mentions that some Bridge-connected brands have abused their relationship by suggesting orders that are clearly unwarranted. When this happens, Luigi is quick to course-correct: “The second I feel like you stepped out of line, I will correct you.” These occasional hiccups, however, are worth the 5-6 hours of time saved during the week, according to Luigi, who hopes to see Bridge adopted by more of his brand partners in the future: “…just do yourself a favor and get on Bridge now.”

Though evidenced by the likes of Botanica and Mary Mart, robust partnerships don’t just manifest overnight, they’re built on pillars of trust and transparency. And where trust is broken or non-existent, Bridge gives buyers & suppliers a valuable starting point, a source of objectivity to engender data-forward communication and bona fide partnerships, in which individual success becomes a reflection of mutual success. And to all of you readers still unconvinced by Luigi’s PSA, let’s chat!

Ready to tango?

Let us help you unlock the benefits of Headset Bridge. For brands and distributors looking to activate Bridge, fill out the form below for a personalized demo. For retailers looking to tap into Headset’s brand network at no cost, reach out here to get started.

*Out of stock events defined as a product-calendar day combination in which a product had a stock of 0 but where that product was sold at some point before and after that date.

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