Merchandising and its added value

Viktors Āboltiņš has been working for BSMS for more than 10 years now. He admits that during these years there have been both ups and downs in the company, but without them it is impossible to grow. “I would compare BSMS to a good whiskey – the older it gets, the valuable it stays,” says Viktors Āboltiņš, Head of BSMS Merchandising department.

How in general has the merchandising changed in Latvia over the last 15 years? In 1996, when I started working in this sector, trade and merchandising in Latvia went hand in hand and at most cases it was done by one person. As time went by, situation begun to change, supermarket chains appeared in Latvia and a lot of things were optimized. Today ordering in shops is done differently than 15 years ago. Automated orders were introduced with digitalisation, which made it necessary to distinguish the work of a sales representative from a merchant agent. In a sense, it was a time when many people had the impression that merchandising was merely sorting out shelves, and that was the reason why many new companies in this sector appeared. More and more often in this sector started to work people without marketing experience, which carried out “merchandising”; without any added value. Frankly, a similar stereotype and scepticism “what does this merchandising do?” still prevails in society.

What is excellent merchandising in your opinion? Of course excellent merchandising is when set goals are achieved, but personally the greatest satisfaction is when you can say to yourself that everything is done to the maximum. I teach my team members to be responsible for brands and products they represent. In my opinion, if there is no satisfaction at work there remains a place for growth.

What are the main achievements of BSMS in this sector? We are satisfied when our customers value our work, and by putting together the results and the total sales data, we can see that the results have been achieved. Customers of BSMS includes prestigious brands that we admire and are proud of and with many clients we have been working for over a decade. One of our clients is LEGO – it is a great brand with a very wide range of products. BSMS provides merchandising for LEGO in Latvia, and it was especially gratifying when LEGO official representatives from Denmark came to Latvia to see the good example of their products merchandising. But with the Latvian brand MILZU!, which produces healthy and tasty breakfast cereals, and already sells its products in 14 countries, we have been working together since the brand was launched on the market. Together with MILZU! it was necessary to convince the shops and supermarket chains that this product should be placed on regular shelves. There are several more BSMS clients with whom we develop together. In my opinion it is important to understand that nothing happens in one day, but successful collaboration with the client often allow you to overthrow the mountains and achieve the results which are needed.

What is your future vision of this industry? In general, merchandising is changing together with technology involvement. There are already several places in the world with electronic shelves, which themselves count the quantity of products. I believe that international companies often successfully make progress, because they are ready to invest, including to merchandising. Unfortunately Latvian companies are not always ready to invest to achieve more. They are afraid to step out of their comfort zone. I have met companies that urgently need excellent merchandising service, but they hope that everything will solve by itself or they choose to send one of their employees around all the stores in Latvia. The other mistake is to look at costs only – customers sometimes think that the cheaper means the better, but actually if it is cheap it will not give the expected results. I have also noticed that Latvian customers often do not really understand the meaning of the English word “merchandising”, which is the reason why we are working on it, so that our todays and future customers would understand this segment completely.