Supply chain · 28 September 2017

Find out what a Holland & Barrett buyer looks for from young brands

Lucy Pottinger
Lucy Pottinger is head of beauty products for Holland & Barrett
Having met three businesses with shelf space at the health food chain, Business Advice turns the tables and asks what a Holland & Barrett buyer gets excited by.

Over the last year, our regular supply chain series has discovered what it’s like selling to some of Britain’s biggest retail brands as a smaller supplier.

From Sainsbury’s to Screwfix and Harvey Nichols to Whole Foods, weve spoken to a diverse mix of up and coming UK producers, whove revealed their experiences both good and bad of selling to some of retail’s most recognisable brands.

Having heard our suppliers? stories, now it’s the turn of the retailers themselves to give us their views. Well put professional buyers under the spotlight those whose job it is to decide which of your products are strong enough to win that all-important place on their shelves.

Theyll be asked what key attributes they look for in a prospective supplier’s business model, and what their ideal pitch would be.

First up, Business Advice met Holland & Barrett buyer Lucy Pottinger, who heads up beauty products at the health food and supplement retailer. She revealed what the perfect product pitch from a new supplier looks like.

the pitch needs to be short, to the point and engaging. The buyer needs to buy-in to your vision for the product, so you want to be passionate about what it does and why Holland & Barrett in particular should stock it.

for example, one of our suppliers Beauty Kitchen founder Jo Chidley sold me her vision for the brand when she gave me a hand massage in the middle of Starbucks!?

Beauty Kitchen
Suppliers are asked about their marketing plan for products
Pottinger said that before a face-to-face meeting with a new supplier, a Holland & Barrett buyer must first be impressed by an email pitch. We want to know about the product: what’s different about it, why would a Holland & Barrett customer want to buy it and what are your marketing plans for it?

how are you going to train Holland & Barrett store associates so they can make the most out of the product? If the pitch answers these questions and has taken our eye, we will arrange to meet in person.

She also explained, in greater detail, what she’s looking for in new Holland & Barrett products, and admitted it was important for suppliers themselves to demonstrate that they understood the health food retailer’s ethos before they agreed a deal.

‘someone who can engage the buyer in their vision and who fully believes in the power of their product (and that it’s one that our customers would love to buy) are the ones that are successful. If we find a gem of a product that makes sense for us to help bring it to market, then we will do it.

we really like a product that is unique and we love innovation. As a retailer, we are known for our quirky products, so it’s important that we keep on finding them. Our beauty customers also want products that look good and fit with their style, so packaging becomes important.

above all, the products need to meet our buying ethos. We are a health and wellness company, and our healthy beauty products are all free from parabens, SLS and microbeads. Plus, they are cruelty free and we have a growing range of vegan and natural products that are often kind to the environment too.

Pottinger revealed that it wasnt important whether a product had already won a listing with another retailer or not. We wouldnt automatically disregard a product because it was already listed elsewhere, but we want products that set us apart from other retailers, both on the high street and online, she added.

Read more from our supply chain series:?

Selling to?Holland & Barrett

Selling to AmazonFresh

having exclusivity on a product means that we can keep our offer unique and keep exciting the customer so that they keep coming back to shop with us.

The Holland & Barrett buyer claimed it doesnt matter what stage a supplier’s business was at, so long as they pitched a great product, adding that the high street chain is frequently able to give a leg up to small firms in terms of manufacturing and distribution capacity.

She added: it’s important for us to understand the capacity of the supplier and we can work together to plan how to support growing demand of their product. There isnt a hard and fast rule.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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