Feature: Tractor Supply mines own brands on Trade Beyond
In January, a new platform emerged with the sole purpose of serving private brand suppliers looking to connect with retailer partners and vice versa. Called Trade Beyond, the mobile app and website currently work with 30 retailers and 3,000 suppliers.
Trade Beyond, a CBX Software company, is headquartered in Hong Kong, with offices in the United States, Europe and throughout Asia, so the network has a large international contingent of suppliers.
Among the platform's differentiators is the fact that it only is looking to supply retailers with items to be sold under store brand labels or as an exclusive.
Though similar platforms exist, they have different purposes. FMI’s Food Industry Exchange is an outlet for retailers to source private brands and connect, but it was primarily created to help suppliers and retailers efficiently move product during the COVID-19 pandemic. ECRM's RangeMe mainly connects major national brands and their umbrella brands, challenger brands, natural and organic companies, and others with retailers looking to buy cases of a certain product, for example, but also acts as a way for retailers to source private brand products.
Speaking with Tractor Supply, the hardware and rural lifestyle chain based in Brentwood, Tenn., one of the largest users of the new Trade Beyond network, the retailer is finding “quick-to-market, unique and new” products that they can run as an exclusive and make their own, said Brittany Snellen, product developer, pet and animal.
Snellen said Tractor Supply uses Trade Beyond along with its agent group in Shanghai, China. The group exclusively works with Tractor Supply and has access to the app, managing much the in-app communication with vendors, particularly those in China or overseas, Snellen said. The agent group manages the vendor pitches and reports back to the product developers like Snellen.
Tractor Supply leverages the app to help fill gaps in exclusive products that the retailer needs quickly for a promotional event or a “promo table” that’s in stores carrying one-time buy items, stuff the retailer doesn’t replenish. It’s very new products, quick turnover, Snellen said.
When developing a larger private brand rollout under one of its lines, Tractor Supply manages that the traditional route, using its in-house designers, sourcing it internally, working with marketing, and so on, she said. But Snellen said the app helps fill the gap on quick own brand products.
Tractor Supply has 20-plus store brands in its portfolio across several divisions (companion animal, large animal, hardware, apparel and home decor, etc). The chain’s 4health pet food is its largest own brand, popular for its better-for-pet ingredients.
Snellen said she will communicate with domestic suppliers on the app. She finds the application especially useful when managing vendor relationships.
Previously, if she had worked with a vendor or received a pitch, it might be a PowerPoint presentation, for example, and any information needed to be manually stored on a server and things could get lost, whereas the Trade Beyond app enables users to manage vendors in different buckets and store for future contact. A vendor who may not have worked for a past project but are great for a future one can easily be revisited through the managed buckets.
Eric Linxwiler, senior vice president at Trade Beyond, said the application focuses mostly on general merchandise retailers and specialty stores so far, including Petco and Ace Hardware. “It’s organizations that have a very stated philosophy, Dollar General, as an example, that they will carry 50% or more of their assortment as own brands.”
The list of suppliers working with the app run across several categories, from hardlines to softlines to prepackaged foods. Suppliers fill out profiles on the network that retailers can locate when fishing for products (there’s a special plan for suppliers to upgrade to a premium subscription where they become verified and vetted by a third party, and become more visible to retailers).
Suppliers otherwise respond to project calls put out by retailers. Linxwiler shared a hypothetical example: “Ace Hardware has a whole department, a whole team of product developers that are trying to find interesting, unique new products in the market that they could put their own Ace signature on. They’ll put out a message on the network that says, ‘Hey, we need someone to put together unique tool kits, which includes a hammer, four screwdrivers, a roll of tape and four other items.’”
That project also will request a packaging type, product capacity, a price (say the whole kit needs to be produced for less than $2 to be sold at retail for $15.99), and suppliers then respond with what they have and a back-and-forth communication begins to develop something from scratch or order what’s ready to go.
The Trade Beyond app is downloaded on iOS or Android phones and managed over a website.
“TradeBeyond is built specifically to meet the unique requirements for developing private label merchandise,” Linxwiler said. “TradeBeyond is not a marketplace or auction site but rather provides the workflow and tools and messaging platform to execute the private label merchandise development process. TradeBeyond provides a vetting service to verify suppliers; thus allowing it to be an open network similar to LinkedIn, and finally, data flows from TradeBeyond directly into Product Lifecycle Management, Product Information Management and Enterprise Resource Planningsystems.”