Buying not shopping

It’s that time of the year when we all indulge in a spot of shopping, or for some a full on attack of the high street and on-line retailers! Love it or loath it we are a nation of shoppers and I am sure there is something in our DNA that spurns us on to feather our nest.

However shopping can be irrational and impulsive. Black Friday showed us the worst of our shopping habits and that we can get easily influenced and follow a herd mentality – I saw a news clip of a woman who had just bought a Dyson from a store – and when asked why she bought it she replied that she wasn’t really sure but wanted to have something in her trolley!

Buyer beware

Shopping is seen as fun, by some people, and getting a bargain (whether real or perceived) exhilarating, buying products and services for your organisation is a serious role that should be approached in a more structured way.

When purchasing goods and services you need to be clear of the need they are fulfilling, and ensure that you are informed about the choices (no impulse purchases), getting value for money (not necessarily a bargain) and that they are fit for purpose (that flashy new gadget with 27 functions might look great but when you only need it to do one it will be over specced, and thus over priced for your organisation).

The role of the buyer

Unfortunately too many people think that just because they can shop – and sniff out a bargain – that they are buyers. If you have responsibility for purchasing in your organisation whether it be a formal role or an ad hoc addendum to your job role, eg buying stationery or dealing with your energy supplies you need to approach this in a different manner.

When buying you need to consider the following:

  • is it a one off purchase or a regular requirement (which could be weekly , monthly or annually)
  • have you defined the specifications
  • are you going to tender
  • are you signing / agreeing to a contract
  • is the price fixed for the term of the contract, if not when and by how much can it increase
  • can you negotiate (probably)
  • do you need pre or after sales support
  • have you taken references
  • are the T&C’s acceptable, do you want to add in any of your own

There are a whole lot more challenges to buying, and whilst only the largest charities have dedicated in house purchasing teams if your role involves purchasing it is your responsibility as a buyer to ensure you are getting the best product or service to meet the needs of your organisation.

For help with all your buying needs take a look at NCVO’s Trusted Suppliers who are there to help and inform your buying decisions.

So enjoy your Christmas shopping, and the January sales – but remember when you are back in the office you are a buyer!

Thanks to Steve Fabian, Purchasing Manager, St Mungos Broadway for the inspiration for this blog post.

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Chris Taylor Chris Taylor is our enterprise development manager. He works with our Trusted Suppliers to help voluntary organisations to explore new ways of working and save money.

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