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Off-target focus

It's a never-ending scenario.

As the schism between suppliers and buyers widens with every new creative invention to wrest more operating dollars from the supplier side to the retailer side, one should not be surprised at the latest in retail creativity. If one thinks of what impact such creativity could have on merchandise development and marketing — wow!

But this newest one stuns, to say the least.

We've been through the reverse auction wars with a slowly increasing numbers of vendors opting out of participation with their "retail partners." But still there are recent additions to the vendor ranks that are willing to play the game, until they see what it is doing to their businesses.

Then there are the unexpected charges that pop up after new store allowances, markdowns, replacement costs/inventory and plain old shelf slot fees are already put into the equation.

These include the surcharge imposed by Bed Bath & Beyond for its new distribution network, ultimatum signage fees above and beyond other previously-agreed-upon charges at Target and yet another charge involving dating and purchase terms, again at Target.

But the latest retail salvo is a doozy at best — an outrage at worst — and we may be some time out of the loop in awareness of this retail job description. And even more astonishing is its formalization.

As an acknowledgement of the importance of product knowledge, fashion awareness and trends, Target has an operations team position called "negotiation leader," which helps the buyers put together negotiating strategies for programs.

Yes, negotiating skills are important, but other elements of the process come first. Do the Target buyers, or most other retailers' buyers today, have a team position called "go out and find the best and newest you can find" without the hindrance of matrixes, fees and the like?

It was light-years ago when buyers, including this writer, were sent out into the market for that purpose — not to look in the rear view mirror.

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