SHELF Studio Welcomes Steven Benoit!

SHELF Studio has always been fortunate to work with like-minded, product-loving brand stewards, who bring an extremely thoughtful and industrious work ethic to the table. We are very excited to introduce the newest member of the SHELF family, Steven Benoit, who brings over 14 years of retail and branding experience. A recent Global Buyer at Whole Foods Market Global Headquarters, Steven’s skill set will help our clients layer in retail and consumer-centric strategy, as they bring their products to life or reimagine stronger ways to drive sales. Sometimes the greatest gifts are just around the corner – or in this case, just upstairs!

SHELF Studio: Before we dive in, can you share a little background?

Steven: Of Course! Prior to joining the SHELF family, I worked as Global Buyer at Whole Foods Market, managing eight categories of business across all 11 regions in the company – Media, Books, Publications, Housewares, Hydration, Home Fragrance, Aromatherapy, Branded Merchandise.

It was a lot of work, but I loved it. My teammates, the regions, and my incredible supplier partners, kept us motivated. We accomplished so much during my time at WFM – opening stores, building programs, developing exclusive products, educating our team members, evolving towards a new hybrid purchasing structure, not to mention navigating the acquisition of our company by Amazon. Whew!

SHELF Studio: What brought you to SHELF Studio?

Steven: I knew of Alison’s work – having seen brands like Cece’s Veggie Co., Fatco, and KITCHUN – on the desks of my fellow Buyers and on shelves in our stores. I had always been drawn to the personality, the vibrancy, and the intentionality of her work. 

My partner and I had recently moved, where we met our new neighbor Alison. The same Alison P. Sauter who just happens to own SHELF Studio! Alison and I would connect every so often to chat about our fields of work, swapped stories about our little pups, and then would go on our ways.

After 12 years at Whole Foods Market, I was ready for a change both personally and professionally. Partnering with Suppliers to improve their branding from a strategic and design perspective to drive sales had always been one of my favorite aspects of being of buyer. Eventually, the stars aligned and Alison to bring me onboard.

SHELF Studio: And we are so happy to have you! Can you tell us a little about what you’ll be doing here at SHELF?

Steven: I will be leading Strategy and Planning for the Studio. As new clients come into the studio, we kick off with a Discovery and Strategy phase. This work is so important and often overlooked by many brands. Taking the time to research your competitive landscape, category and industry trends, and target consumer allows for a solid foundation of strategy for the brand from a business perspective and a creative perspective. Without this insight, it is near impossible to maintain consistent and ownable brand messaging and you’ll likely have disjointed or confusing packaging – which translates into sales decline or discontinued product.  

I’ll also help make sure all projects are fully planned out and moving along to meet client deadlines. Having managed overlapping complex projects across all 500+ WFM stores in three countries, I’ve got a little experience in this area. 😉

SHELF Studio: What are you excited to bring to SHELF clients?

Steven: I’m excited to bring an analytical, data-oriented, and sales-driving point of view to the table. Having successfully managed my categories at Whole Foods Market, I know firsthand how to create and maintain a profitable product in the retail and e-commerce channels.

Additionally, having been on the other end of thousands of supplier meetings, I can provide insight into how a brand should properly work with a retail buyer.

SHELF Studio: Any tips for brands presenting to a buyer?

Steven: I have so many – so I’ll leave you with two tips for now.

First, be prepared. Buyers are extremely busy, so when you get any facetime with a Buyer take advantage. Before meeting, clearly communicate and align on your goals and objectives for your time together. If you are going to present sales information or introduce new products, share the presentation at least 48 hours prior. That way, everyone has reviewed the content beforehand, there are no uncomfortable surprises, and the time together can be productive and decision-oriented.

Second, don’t complain. Buyers know they often have to ask a lot of Suppliers. Investment in free fill or slotting fees, promotional support, exclusive products. Know that these asks are either simply the cost of conducting business with the retailer or are intentional to help grow your business. It is in the best interest of a Buyer to help your brand grow, so their business can grow. Complaining can put a bad taste in a buyer’s mouth, who can easily spend his time with hundreds of other brands wanting to get on their shelves. Acknowledge and appreciate the partnership and opportunity.

Bonus tip – be on time to meetings. Please.

Follow Steven Benoit on LinkedIn