Checkout - September 2009, John Ruddy
With the creation of a new pan-european online trading platform. Irish suppliers and retailers should be able to tap into new markets with much greater ease. As emarket director Ravi Sharma tells John Ruddy.
If the collapse of sterling has highlighted one thing to both Irish retailers and suppliers alike, it is that the old supply chain rules are now firmly a thing of the past. Multiples, wholesalers, even multi-store independents, are now all tapping into grey markets or going direct to brand principals in an attempt to gain cheaper product.
The rights, wrongs and long-term impact of this new world order may be the subject of great debate, but with Irish retailers and suppliers now increasingly aware of the opportunities of direct sourcing (for retailers) or supply (for producers), the timing for the launch of a new e-trading platform - emarket - could not be better.
The emarket format is simple. Suppliers wishing to sell stock list their products on the online portal- giving details of quantity, price and availability. Retailers can then search for stock, buy it through the portal, with emarket arranging delivery and, crucially, guaranteeing the bona fides and the credit facilities of both buyer and seller.
It's a system that is glorious in its simplicity, but one which has proved extraordinarily successful since its soft launch earlier this summer. Already, four of the top five French retailers are members, with transactions totalling â‚¬5 million taking place in the first two months of the trial period, and high-profile endorsements from the likes of Leclerc.
"I can scan the marketplace at a glance and compare prices from producers across Europe on a like-far-like basis," Frank Helou, national buyer, E. Leclerc.
According to emarket marketing director, Ravi Sharma, the platform has key benefits for both suppliers and retailers. Smaller suppliers can use the emarket system to gain access to retailers whom they previously could not reach, while retailers can scan the market to find the cheapest prices across Europe.
"It is about creating visibility in the market, with real-time pricing. It gives suppliers opportunities to tap into markets where they are not strong, or do not have sales teams. We can bring buyers and suppliers together," Sharma said.
While many bigger manufacturers and wholesalers are now using the emarket platform to shift residual product - Sharma gives the example of Coca-Cola Germany using the portal to shift 34 containers of Coke close to its expiry date - he maintains that there is much more to emarket than just an online auction for spurious grey stock.
"It's not just about grey stock, although it does allow retailers to tap into markets which they might not normally have access to, The key is that customers looking to sell products control the process. They decide who gets to see what they are offering, so they can only make it available to domestic retailers, or only international retailers - they are in full control." This 'control', as Sharma puts it, means that buyers can register interest in certain products, with alerts provided when stock (at the right price and the right quantity) becomes available, Suppliers can also access information on what buyers are looking for - allowing smaller producers (both branded and PL) to tap into retail networks with whom they may previously not had a relationship.
With the emarket trial working well, the company is now gearing up for a full launch in September. So far, the main focus of member acquisition has been in the UK and continental Europe, Sharma says, however, he maintains that there are huge opportunities for both Irish retailers and suppliers.
"We see considerable scope in Ireland, for Irish retailers to use our platform to access wider markets, and for Irish suppliers to sell their products to a wider audience," he said.
While there are obvious benefits to a system like this, with emarket taking a cut of the proceeds (2-6% fixed margin) and charging a membership fee (â‚¬1,000-â‚¬2,000 p.a.), why wouldn't retailers and suppliers simply deal directly? While Sharma says that these costs are minuscule in terms of the level of visibility that emarket provides (in that the platform brings people together), another huge part of the emarket proposition is trust.
"We meet members before, check their credit, their facilities, their ability to live up to the deals they make. Yes, we are the middleman, but we have to ensure that when people enter into transactions via our platform, they do so trusting that the transaction will run smoothly," he said.
This was echoed by company CEO Suraj Sharma, who said that the level of transparency enables far smoother and faster transactions. "The industry is fragmented and information tends to move slowly - with emarket 90% of the processes are automated - where before it might have taken a buyer a week to research a certain type of product and hunt around for quality information and pricing now they have it within seconds at a click of a button. There are tremendous opportunities to increase top line sales, cut costs and reduce operational inefficiency," he said.
For more information, go to www.emarket.com