In the early 1970s, the senior executives at Lone Star Brewing Co. came from Schlitz. Harry Jersig, who was the owner of Lone Star, had retained these executives in an attempt to turn the brewery around while simultaneously upgrading the execution of the company.
The required administrative work required of these senior executives was similar to what had been required during their time at Schlitz. Looking back, the Market Activity Report was simple. A two-page report; the first page consisting of a review of sales, product inventory, orders, and p-o-s inventory; and the second page consisting of a follow-up from the last visit, the result of any programs the distributor had agreed to, a recap of the program, and the agreed-to-program(s) to be executed during the next time period.
Since most of the distributors were one-brand wholesalers, brewery reps had their undivided attention and program execution was a given. The entire process was simple to manage for both the wholesaler and the vendor.
During the 1990s, Gambrinus required all field employees to follow-up with their respective wholesaler through a performance letter. The letters, which were predominantly negative in nature and non-productive, were graded internally and posted.
Over the years the Market Activity Reports gradually evolved into annual business planning meetings with both the wholesaler and brewer agreeing upon certain goals. During the calendar year, both parties conducted monthly review meetings to ensure stated goals were being met, and if needed, adjustments were made.
In today’s market, wholesalers have a plethora of vendors, some with more than 30. In a good size market, the vendors will have market/retail specialists on the street. Today’s wholesaler might also have a brand manager for the vendors, with many managers having five or more vendors to manage. If a brand manager has over five vendors, this results in not enough time to devote to even a single day to one brand. Someone falls through the cracks. And thus we see the need for market reps.
Wholesalers began asking for weekly recaps from the vendors, the obvious reason being that while the wholesaler works with multiple vendors, the wholesaler needs to know what is being accomplished. The ideal model would have the wholesaler follow-up with the vendor when necessary and execute as needed.
The wholesaler’s requests could result in vendors asking the wholesaler, “What are you doing each week with my brands?” This is certainly a fair question. Vendors often have software to programs, like VIP, that enable the vendor to see real-time sales, inventory, and distribution. Such programs, however, do not give the vendor a complete and updated picture.
The numbers of vendors have exploded in recent years and the number of wholesalers has shrunk. This situation has created challenges in today’s market. The old adage, however, may still be in play: the wholesaler’s job is to put the dog food on the shelf, the brewers’ job is to get the dogs to pick it up.
Written reports stifle creativity.