Supplier Price Increases – Get Creative (Part 1)

In my last post, 9 Ways to Fight a Supplier Price Increase, I listed approaches to handling a supplier price increase. These involved pushing back.  These days, commodity prices may be at the heart of increases. They can be volatile and unpredictable and offer little room for black and white approaches. Besides using hedging, a technique that only someone who really knows what they’re doing should attempt, other ways to tackle increases can be considered. Sometimes it takes a collaborative effort between customer and supplier to figure out how to avoid the price increase and even to reduce the price by reducing underlying costs. It isn’t done by threatening or bludgeoning the supplier into submission.  Here are 5 approaches for a buyer who is faced with a price increase. Not all are appropriate to every situation, but can be considered, depending upon the circumstances.

  • Use competition. This is useful only under some circumstances. If you’ve got a supplier with a highly value-added product or service or one who is sole source, this may not be feasible. If the product or service falls more into the leverage category (rather than strategic or bottleneck), you may be able to hold a sourcing event using software or else use an alternative source whom you’ve wanted to try. Competition can be a useful tool if used cautiously and wisely with suppliers who provide products and services that are more readily available in the marketplace.
  • Alternative materials/services. Perhaps the supplier can use a different, less costly material to make the product. Or for a service supplier, a less costly service will meet your requirements than the current one that you are buying. Being creative about alternatives may save you money.
  • Value analysis/value engineering. Have you and the supplier done a value analysis of the product? If not, the supplier in particular, may be able to come up with creative ways to make the product more cheaply and potentially improve it at the same time. This can result in mutual benefit to both customer and supplier. Many suppliers, who know their product better than their customers do, are willing and even eager to do a value analysis but are rarely asked.
  • Longer-term agreement/contract.  Some suppliers are willing to give their customers a better price in return for a longer-term contract. Extending the contract period can give a supplier the predictability and stability to offer a product or service at a more favorable price.
  • Packaging and transportation. Can anything be done to reduce the amount of packaging or make it less costly? Can transportation costs be reduced? Are customers paying inbound transportation markups?  For example, many suppliers make a profit on outbound transportation to the customer by not passing along their savings to their customers.


In Part 2, we’ll look at 5 additional ways to handle supplier prices increases.

Sherry R. Gordon

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