Walmart's Bauza keynotes Mack Elevation Forum


DENVER — “Show me white spaces and create [value] that I don’t already have.” That’s what one retailer polled by the Mack Elevation Forum said regarding what suppliers need to do to score a win. And that may be both the challenge and the opportunity for suppliers today as they prepared for NACDS Marketplace meetings.

(For pictures from the Elevation Forum, click here.)

Two days before the show floor opened, more than 20 senior executives and keynote speaker Carmen Bauza, Walmart VP beauty and personal care, gathered as part of the latest Elevation Forum just down the street from the Colorado Convention Center to engage in a top-line discussion around how to best score those wins and maintain that continued generation of success going forward.

Bauza also discussed with attendees Walmart’s back-to-basics strategy that emphasizes value through everyday low pricing, coupled with unique solutions for its shoppers. 

Retailers today are looking for more than the latest line extensions or new product introductions being replicated across the retail landscape, noted program founder Dan Mack, EVP strategic business development for the Swanson Group. They’re looking for new learnings around consumer needs, coupled with compelling programs that create a unique customer experience.

Past and present successes sometimes can serve as the most significant barriers to delivering on those retail needs, Mack noted. Mack outlined three “pitfalls of power.”

  • First, the assumption that the past is a fair indicator of the present and subsequently that the present is a fair indicator of the future;

  • Second, many successful suppliers ignore critical feedback; and

  • Third, many successful suppliers fail to recognize the changing nuances within their businesses that could fast make their solutions obsolete. “It’s not only that you’re not seeing [those nuances], you’re not open to them,” Mack cautioned.

One way to deliver on that retailer need for unique offerings is to align a supplier’s product development and business analysis against a particular retailer’s core focal points, even if that means doing something as counterintuitive as helping to drive a retailer’s noncompetitive private-brand offerings.

It’s about contributing total category value beyond exceeding an individual supplier’s profit-per-sq.-in. hurdles. “We’ve got to change the nomenclature,” noted Bruce Kramer, Wahl Clipper VP sales and marketing, North America Consumer. “We’ve got to stop calling [retail strategy meetings] ‘category line reviews’ and start calling them ‘category growth sessions.’”

Another valuable learning to come out of this forum: Communication flow in these meetings shouldn’t be one way, from supplier to retailer. It may be unnecessary, for example, to rehash the historical position of a category to an experienced buyer, and instead may be more constructive to fast-forward to the meat of any presentation.


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