Posted: Thu 27th Jul 2017
Anna Rigby, head of buying home at John Lewis, sets out what she looks for in new suppliers and offers top tips on pitching.
What do you look for in a small business supplier?
I look for the same things in any new supplier to John Lewis, large or small. First an exciting, inspiring and well made product that's been sustainably and responsibly sourced, and will offer us and our customers great value.
In a supplier large or small, I'm looking for a business that we can work with in partnership; someone who holds the same values as the Partnership, is stable, honest and is going to offer John Lewis something unique in a world of 'me too' products.
Are there any particular categories you're focused on at the moment?
As a department store, John Lewis has the advantage of offering customers everything they need in one convenient place whether it's our shops or online. In Home, we aim to make customers lives easier and try to understand the changing demands as the way we live and do things is changing rapidly.
We want to help customers live well whether it's choosing the best sleep solutions you can afford from a mattress to your duvet and bedding, providing the latest cooking utensils to cook the latest food trends or helping customers stamp their personality on their home with inspirational home accessories that create a home as unique as them.
What would be your top tips when it comes to small businesses contacting a buyer at John Lewis?
John Lewis and its buying teams are contacted every hour of the day so any business small or large needs to stand out to get noticed. My top tips:
1) Contact John Lewis only if you are confident you can supply a leading omni-channel retailer with the requirements that will bring - sustainable and traceable sourcing, strong branding, suitable packaging to survive our supply chain, reliable supply , workable margins etc
2) Identify the right buyer for your product, then in a succinct straight forward but engaging way tell the buyer about the product. Buyers love something new!
Think about what the buyer will need to know to decide whether to follow up on your initial communication.
Give the buyer the full picture, convince them you have done your research and set out the reasons why you believe your product or service is a good fit with John Lewis.
Product or service: What is it? What does it look like? What's innovative, new or unique about this product or service? Where do you see it fitting in the John Lewis price and style architecture?
Manufacture: Where is it made? By whom? With what? Is it sustainable or traceable? Would the factory pass an independent audit? Volume capability? Manufacturing lead times?
Branding: Is this a branded product or suitable for the John Lewis brand? What's the branding? Packaging look and feel and quality? What marketing is planned to support the brand?
3) If a buyer needs more information, supply it quickly to keep the momentum going.
4) Aim to meet the buyer in person to discuss in more detail and develop a partnership. Be memorable for the right reasons.
5) If you are unsuccessful with John Lewis, try to establish why but understand that not every product is right for John Lewis and John Lewis isn't the right retailer partner for every small business.
This post was originally published in 2017.