Natural Foods Merchandiser

Maximize broker relationships

Think you could be getting more out of your broker relationships? You're probably right. To make your broker work harder for you, ask the right questions and be creative in how you communicate. If you buy any of the brokers' lines, they're getting paid for it. So don't be afraid to ask them to perform, says Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights.

Ask for design advice. Need help with resets? Ask your brokers—they're good at it, Jacobowitz says. "Ask them to come in and look at your shelves." Or, if the broker can't make the trip, email some photos of your shelves to get suggestions. "With a broker, it's fair to say, 'We don't know what we don't know. Come, evaluate our store, and give us your recommendations.' Make them work."

Get the specials. For many stores, it's difficult to get brokers to visit. That's when you need to depend on alternative forms of communication: Ask them to fax or email their entire deal sheet and to ship a box of monthly samples, Jacobowitz says.

Inquire about extra funds. "Usually a broker has a discretionary fund of about 5 percent to 10 percent. Ask about that," Jacobowitz suggests. Brokers can also pass on credits or promotions from manufacturers, so it never hurts to inquire. "Ask about their demo budget," Jacobowitz adds. "Often they can funnel dollars to you for someone to stand there and sample products."

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