It’s no surprise that one of the most discussed topics among retail buyers is the challenges they face when it comes to keeping items in stock. The supply chain issues vendors have been facing due to transportation setbacks, labor shortages of their suppliers, and scarcity of ingredients or packaging components – ripple effects of which are directly or indirectly due to the pandemic – have impacted nearly every category.

While buyers typically participate in ECRM Programs and use RangeMe to discover new product innovations, many have come to see both ECRM and RangeMe as their go-to sources to prevent holes in their assortments due to these vendor supply chain issues. Gayle Young, Category Manager – OTC for Giant Eagle, is a case-in-point (see full video interview here). Giant Eagle operates more than 200 stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, and Indiana, and Young discovered she was running low on inventory of poison ivy salve.

“Our vendor just couldn’t get a hold of a regular supply, so it forced us to look for an additional source,” says Young. “So that was of particular interest when I participated in ECRM’s Health Care Program. My category is where shoppers head when they don’t feel well, and it’s such a niche product that you can’t not have it.”

Are you a buyer looking to fill out-of-stock products? Meet with brands during upcoming ECRM Programs here.

Green Goo to the rescue

Fortunately, Jodi Scott, Co-Founder and CEO of Green Goo, was one of the suppliers participating in the Health Care Program. Green Goo is a women-owned, family-run, and Certified B Corporation that makes portable first aid and body care products using only plant-based ingredients and slow-infusing them in enriching oils. Its All-Natural Poison Ivy Salve was developed to soothe irritation, protect the skin, and relieve the pain, itching, and oozing associated with reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

“I met with Jodi at a previous ECRM Program, and they stuck in my mind as I was prepping for the Health Care session,” says Young. “I liked the product. It comes in a fun little tin and it’s women-owned, so it checked off all of the boxes, as we are looking to incorporate more sustainable and diverse-owned suppliers into our assortments.”

Plus, Scott crushed it during her ECRM Connect meeting with Young. “Jodi is very fun to talk to and she had all of the information I needed at the meeting,” says Young. “She had a few slides about her and her company, as well as relevant marketing information data. Then she dove into the products and left me plenty of time to ask questions about the products and their performance at retail.”

After checking out product samples that Scott sent following the meeting, Giant Eagle went live with Green Goo in just a few weeks.

For Green Goo’s Scott, a regular participant of ECRM Programs and active RangeMe user, the relationship with Giant Eagle has been ideal. “The Giant Eagle buyers are incredibly receptive and personable’” she says. “They are in tune with market demands, innovation, and the customers’ needs. They respond quickly and for that, they will continue to be leaders in the marketplace. ECRM and RangeMe have truly made it so we can all be more efficient and effective with our time. We couldn’t do it without them, or at least sure wouldn’t want to.”

Are you a retail buyer interested in meeting with Green Goo? Visit their RangeMe profile here to connect.

Giant Eagle’s ECRM experience

In addition to filling the gaps of potential out-of-stocks, Giant Eagle’s Young also participates in ECRM’s Programs to discover new product innovations across over-the-counter (OTC) that will help the retailer stay ahead of what’s trending in the category. The fact that the programs are virtual she sees as an added benefit in terms of reach and efficiency.

“The virtual platform gives me the opportunity to meet with more vendors than I normally would have in-person,” she says. “Plus, it’s not disruptive to my work because I can get my regular tasks done before and after my vendor meetings. And with video, we can see each other’s faces and expressions so you are not losing out on the fact that you are not in-person. I use the star ratings for each meeting as well as the follow-up notifications for the suppliers of interest, and also request samples right from the platform.”

In fact, Young likes the ECRM Program format so much, she’s started organizing her meetings outside of ECRM programs in the same manner. “I’ll schedule a bunch of 10-minute meetings with new vendors because it’s the perfect amount of time to get what you need to know from them,” she says. “I think moving forward, all meetings with new vendors should be virtual, because I want to be respectful of their time and resources. For example, if there is a new vendor and I don’t know anything about them, I’d feel awful having them coming to me in-person on the chance that it doesn’t work out.”

Young’s advice for suppliers

For suppliers prepping for a meeting with Young, and other buyers at that, she offers a few pieces of advice. First and foremost, create a RangeMe profile and make sure it’s up to date with your product lineup. As she preps for her meetings, she likes to peruse suppliers’ RangeMe profiles to get an idea of their offerings and prefers the RangeMe format to searching through a company website.

Next, keep the slide count to a minimum. Less than 10 slides are ideal, she says, and they should contain an overview of the company, its products, why they are a good fit (with data to back it up), and what kind of marketing support is offered. If the supplier has distribution at other retailers, include information about the success they have seen.

Finally, leave some time for discussion. The meeting shouldn’t just be a one-way pitch, but rather should allow some time for additional buyer questions to complete the picture.

Overall, the goal of every meeting, as Young succinctly puts it, is this: “Let’s get to the meat of it quickly.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

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