Sunday 5 November 2017

Questioning Our Trader Structure

The Herald-Sun article earlier this week that challenged the impasse between our Trader Representatives and QVM management has gained a big reaction. For many traders it highlights some of the issues with our current trader representative structure.

The sad thing is that most traders don’t know much about the intent or actions of their representatives.

An article on this website earlier in the week talked about stopping the blame game because essentially it just wastes time. Wasting time doesn’t make sense, unless you want to stop proceedings altogether and some of our Trader Representatives don’t seem to hide from that intent, although it is certainly not a mainstream trader view.

Long term Trader Representative Jenny Pyke has often said that traders should not be burdened with the task of analysing complex market matters and it is true that not many traders have the time, resources or training to contribute. There have been many attempts over the last decade to create a trader structure that could contribute at all levels in a debate, including a Trader Association, although for various reasons those attempts have failed. The latest attempt to put trader matters in the hands of a union has raised many objections, including whether it is appropriate for a union to represent a business or group of businesses.

The current trader representative structure was proposed by a group of traders and its intent was fine. It was to broaden trader involvement through regular aisle meetings that would perform a dual purpose of informing traders (information down) and giving traders a voice (information up). Those meetings have not happened, which has led to speculation that they were never really intended in the first place. That is a shame because the adding of resources created by greater trader involvement, and a bit more input from Trader Representatives, may have just created a worthwhile alternative to stone-walling or hand balling our issues to someone else.

Of course there needs to be some mutual respect here and this is where we struggle. Traders need to accept that some aspects of market planning demand expertise from, well .... experts. Management need to understand that some aspects of market planning require signing off by those on the ground. This is not rocket science although there is always going to be someone who wants more control over proceedings than others are prepared to give. Sometimes the complex structure we have at QVM - Traders, Management, and CoM – is the culprit. Productive face to face discussion and the ability to reach a deal is often the victim with structures like that.

All traders want is real improvements, both long and short term, that will enable us to profit from new consumer attitudes and practices, and address the predatory competition we are facing from many outside sources.

Some of our key Trader Representatives want things left as they are, and that is not good. Maybe Traders need to be part of a different revolution –one that replaces old style thinking with focused action - action that looks to the future not the past - action that embraces our entrepreneurial roots and looks for solutions rather than withdrawing from discussion, building walls, or at best hand-balling our problems to others.

By Greg Smith