Why a C-Store Rack Jobber is Like a TV Showrunner

By Naomi Balagot


In the entertainment industry, a showrunner is someone who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a television series. For instance, Matthew Weiner is the creator and showrunner of the hit TV drama “Mad Men” on AMC. He took his concept to a studio for development, and had a major role in writing, directing, and set and costume design.

Think of rack jobbers as the showrunners of the convenience store industry. A c-store rack jobber is a specialty distributor who rents space in a convenience store to sell products. A jobber might also work for an independent manufacturer who is launching a new product. The jobber is involved in each step of the process from bringing the product from a manufacturer’s warehouse to displaying it in retail.

The rack jobber is an effective communicator who has valuable industry connections. It’s a jobber’s responsibility to expose the product to as many customers as possible, while also ensuring that the store shares in the profit.

Typically, rack jobbers own the merchandise and buy at 40 percent to 45 percent of retail. They raise their purchase price 50 percent to 75 percent, and then the stores mark the product up an additional 50 percent, according to Mr. Checkout Distributors, a national organization of direct store delivery wagon-jobbers, distributors, retail merchandisers and wholesale-to-distributor warehouses servicing convenience and grocery stores.

See Also: 3 Lessons From Managing Partner and Vendor Relationships

While the jobber usually sets up the product display racks, sometimes a store will provide shelf space if it’s available.

A rack jobber has a number of responsibilities. Essentially, they can be divided into two segments: before product launch and after the product launch.

Before the product launch, the c-store rack jobber is responsible for:

  1. Conducting research to try to predict if the store’s regular customers will be interested in buying a certain product.
  2. Determining what items to stock and in what quantity.
  3. Negotiating contract terms and working with the store owner or manager on product placement.

Of course, just getting a foot in the door of a retailer – especially a retail chain – is half the battle. The rack jobbers’ responsibilities are just beginning. Now, it’s show time!

After the product launch, the c-store rack jobber is responsible for:

  1. Visiting the stores regularly to check in on inventory.
  2. Creating new displays and restocking items.
  3. Keeping careful inventory and sales records to determine how to adjust the price in order to make a profit.

The role of a rack jobber requires a lot of documentation and self-auditing, especially since rack jobbers are only paid for the merchandise when it is sold by the store. Communicating changing store conditions is imperative to the success of all parties: the rack jobber, the store manager, and the manufacturer.

A TV showrunner has two roles — literally running the show to the studio and running the show from behind the scenes. Similarly, the role of the rack jobber doesn’t end once the product reaches the shelf; it’s only just beginning.

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