Jumping the fence - Making the move from retail to the supplier side in 2017

As we kick off 2017 I am certain we’ll see even more professionals moving from the retail sector to the supplier side.

I’m so enthused about this topic, my blog post threatened a takeover of a large multinational, so our marketing consultant (MC) fenced me in with a focused interview to explain the reasons for the changes, and the opportunities for the market. Read on for the result!

MC: You’ve said that moving from retail to supplier side is more prevalent now, but has it always been the case?

No, traditionally, it was risky to hire someone from the retail sector into a sales role due to the cost of training and lack of direct experience.

Now, it’s rare that a FMCG supplier won’t look at a skilled buyer to fulfill an Account Manager or a Commercial Marketer role. That said, buyers can be wary about losing buyer ‘control’ and moving into a sales role, but as the retail-supplier relationship is now more collaborative, this is less of an issue.  

The biggest bonus has been created from skills and role shortages: if the industry is to survive, new talent must be sourced.

MC: Why is there a skills shortage?

Within FMCG, the options are far wider than in retail. Many alternative job roles are available. For example, a sales person could move into commercial strategy, brand marketing, or shopper marketing. This leaves a gap at the bottom as there are only so many sales people entering the business.

New blood is essential, but clients are very good at holding onto talent. Fast progression and attractive salaries have also pushed candidates’ market expectations up. To move, they may want a higher salary than the bracket on offer.

There are a number of other reasons but these are the most prevalent.

MC: How does this shortage play out for recruitment opportunities?

There’s value in bringing in experienced hires from retail, especially for National Account or Commercial Strategy roles. The precious value is insider knowledge and the pool is much, much wider.

Moving a retailer into a sales role means they know the tricks of the trade, negotiation techniques and customer expectations. This has huge advantages when dealing with someone in their old job role.

MC: What does this mean for candidates in terms of career paths?

Massively diverse career paths are now on offer for professionals working on the supply side. There are many different divisions they can move into – National Accounts, Shopper and Trade Marketing, MSP / Revenue Growth, Brand Management, and Category Management.

Suppliers prefer to keep someone bright, with strong interpersonal skills, so they’ll offer them a new job if they want to move to a different division, rather than lose them.

MC: What are the popular roles in FMCG sales for 2017?

There’s an influx of positions available now where brands have set up Revenue Growth and Market, Strategy & Planning (M&SP) divisions. The market is short in this type of person, so it’s a good option for Buyers or NAM’s – anyone who has been involved with pricing, promotions, execution and category management in a previous role.

MC: So why should candidates and clients work with a specialist agency like Vertical Advantage?

At Vertical Advantage, we work to advise and educate clients and candidates according to their needs, and this has led to a lot of success placing candidates into new divisions and sectors.

To make this strategy work, candidates must do their research and have credible reasons for considering a move. We help them understand the learning curve and challenges that may occur if they swap sides – a key question at interview stage.

For clients, we get to know our candidates well through a robust screening process, so we don’t just look at experience but also skill set and adaptability.

Vertical Advantage specialises in recruitment for Sales, Marketing and Supply Chain & Procurement opportunities within the food and non-food consumer markets.

If you want to discuss moving from retail to the supplier side please drop me an email on to discuss how we can help. 



Richard Bowen

Manager – Sales

More Articles from Richard