1595 – Elevating Private-Label Retail Partnerships with JHL Solutions’ Juli Lassow

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Founder & Principal of JHL Solutions, Juli Lassow.


As a retail consultant, Julie shares her wealth of expertise on how retailers can provide their customers with high-quality products that exceed their expectations. She emphasizes establishing strong partnerships with suppliers to achieve this goal. 

Building solid partnerships starts with understanding customers' preferences and expectations. By doing so, retailers can identify products that will sell well and ensure their suppliers can meet the demand.

Regularly sharing updates and feedback with suppliers ensures that both parties are on the same page and can address any issues quickly. Retailers should also focus on creating a welcoming and enjoyable shopping environment by paying attention to small details in-store.

To achieve the best results, retailers can seek the help of an independent negotiator to evaluate their interests and position objectively. This can lead to more impactful results and ensure both parties feel satisfied with the final agreement.

With a positive and collaborative approach, retailers can establish strong partnerships with their suppliers, resulting in high-quality products that meet and exceed customer expectations.


About Juli Lassow: 

Juli is an expert in retail with over two decades of experience. As the founder of JHL Solutions, she specializes in developing private-label partnerships that transform the relationships between mass retailers and suppliers. 

Lassow's distinct expertise lies in owned brand product development, supplier matrices, global sourcing, and compelling negotiations, predominantly for Fortune 50 and 500 organizations. Beyond her professional role, she is a speaker, author, and devoted advocate for sustainability, leading her industry toward a more conscious future.


About JHL Solutions: 

JHL Solutions is a consultancy firm aimed at demystifying the process of creating successful owned brand partnerships. The firm bridges the gap between retailers, suppliers, and strategies to maximize product value. 

Founded by retail expert Juli Lassow, JHL Solutions can provide value at any stage, whether you require a completely new solution or wish to overhaul an existing structure. The firm's services cater particularly well to organizations whose needs aren't met by larger retail consultancies, providing tailored, practical strategies for brand development.


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Check out Juli Lassow on LinkedIn at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. Juli Lassow. Juli, you are the founder and principal of JHL Solutions. You're found on the web at JHL Juli, thank you for joining us.

Juli (00:01:15) - Josh Thanks so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Josh (00:01:17) - You have a long and storied background in retail leadership which today now as a consultant or as well what would you say consultant service provider I mean yeah I'm primarily.

Juli (00:01:31) - A consultant, I think that's fair to say.

Josh (00:01:33) - Yeah. So share with us what you do in kind of kind of retail consulting.

Juli (00:01:41) - What I do in retail consulting is I help retailers build amazing partnerships with their suppliers so they can bring amazing products to their shelves, whether they're virtual or physical. I do a lot of work in the private label or the own brand space, so we're retailers can really develop unique products that they can't find anywhere else in the market, but they often need really great supplier partners to do that and help them do that effectively.

Josh (00:02:06) - What is the downside of. Explain to me from someone on the outside. I've never been in retail and why is it important to have really great systems relationships on the supplier side?

Juli (00:02:22) - I love that question and I spend a lot of time answering it, so I'm happy to talk about it with you today. Retailers are in a really unique place that they can build out the businesses that they want. They offer a unique and compelling value proposition, we like to say to their consumers.

Juli (00:02:38) - So if you shop at Target, there's a reason for that. If you shop at REI, there's a reason for that. And a lot of that comes down to the assortment that they curate, what they what they make available, what the quality of that product is and what the price is. And so it's incredibly important for these suppliers, especially if they're making their own products, to have just the right partners that make that product. That tent needs to perform exactly how REI wants it to, or they're going to disappoint their customers. So it's important for them to have a really fantastic relationship with the supplier or the suppliers that make those tents that those the suppliers understand the technical aspects of it, that they're able to make it for a cost that allows to position in the marketplace for a retail that their customers will find compelling. And you can just imagine how that scales across an entire store and even in products that aren't private label or own brands. So think a national brand product or a consumer product could like Doritos or Pepsi.

Juli (00:03:36) - You would also be able to negotiate with those suppliers to make sure you've got really great promotional offerings so you know that you can always come to Walmart, for example, to get the best deals on soda this week and this week. So those are all the types of things that retailers need to work well with their suppliers to understand and then how that comes about. Looks and feels a little different for all retailers and different types of suppliers. So that's really where the the magic is in the details and those those partnership conversations.

Josh (00:04:07) - Yeah. Help me out with a little insider baseball because I've really been curious about like when I go to let's say I go to a retailer and they've got a sale on something, is that typically a partnership between the supplier and the retailer to create that sale, or is how does that typically work?

Juli (00:04:27) - Excellent question. If it's a consumer product, good. So if it's a brand that you can buy at a variety of different retailers, often there is an agreement between the retailer and the supplier of what that product is going to be offered for and what the retailers are.

Juli (00:04:42) - Now there is a regulation around that, so there can't be collusion where there's agreements about what certain prices can be and whatnot. But what often will happen is in a consumer space or the consumer goods space, that brand manager will be able to say, we can offer you X amount of dollars for this type of promotional event, and then you'll also see a partnership between that supplier and retailer to make sure that they have enough inventory so that NCF or the shelf is full of that product. So you don't have a disappointed consumer who's coming in expecting to get a product for XYZ or ordered online. So again, the virtual or the the physical shelves. But yes, so it's the green both on the price and then often the quantity to ensure that they can deliver on expectations from the consumers.

Josh (00:05:29) - So the conversation might sound something like, hey, you know, August is coming up and that would be a perfect month back to school. You know, let's really plan on, you know, maybe we'll do some in-store promotion.

Josh (00:05:43) - You're going to hook us up, We're going to buy maybe some larger quantities. You're going to give us a correct me where I'm wrong here. You're going to give us some discounts on the if we buy a volume play and let's move some product together.

Juli (00:05:58) - Yes, that's that's a lot of the way that the conversation comes together for those consumer goods. If it's something that the the retailer has developed themselves. So like Trader Joe's, for example, there's very few national brands and Trader Joe's, they own almost all of those brands internally. They get to pretty much decide what those promotional programs are and the units and buys. And often they will have negotiated with their suppliers to have just the basic best price day in and day out. And there isn't additional funding that's provided for that. So Trader Joe's is then really in charge of thinking through what's the right promotional strategy and how do I need to support it from an inventory perspective?

Josh (00:06:37) - And they can collude on the with themselves and with themselves.

Juli (00:06:41) - Exactly right. They have that autonomy and they get to decide how they want to compete or who their competitors are very sincerely, who who do they they think they need to benchmark or that the consumers, importantly, will benchmark? Yeah, not in the full disclaimer.

Juli (00:06:55) - I don't work on the Trader Joe's account. So this is you're okay.

Josh (00:06:57) - Great.

Juli (00:06:58) - Inside outside baseball.

Josh (00:07:00) - Yeah. But so one brand that you did work with for quite a while, do you mind sharing a little bit about your background and why it's empowered you with superpowers that are very valuable?

Juli (00:07:15) - I'd be happy to share. So you're referencing the fact that I started my career at Target Corporation, so I went there right out of college. I spent 17 years at Target, always in the merchandising spaces, so I started out in inventory planning. That's the team that gets to decide how much to buy and directionally what stores or how much volume is available in the different stores or for online fulfillment. I also did a fair amount of work in the inventory management space as well as financial analysis buying. So actually putting together an assortment, deciding what that assortment should be. And then I bought half of my time at Target. I spent in sourcing or owned owned brand private label sourcing. And that job was all about finding the perfect partners to make the perfect types of products.

Juli (00:07:59) - So who are bedding vendors? Who is going to make our string lights, our Halloween costumes, finding those vendors and then working with them to develop product and our design team obviously to develop the right product at the right cost or so it's ultimately the right value for the consumer and then part of my job that I absolutely loved was partnering not only with those vendors but also our global sourcing team. And I'll be careful with my pronouns for the target team has sourcing partners throughout the world, sourcing team members throughout the world, and that was just a fantastic part of my job, was getting to work with those partners and vendor supplier teams throughout the world to help bring really amazing products to the target Guest.

Josh (00:08:41) - Yeah. Okay. So what types of retailers are working with today? Because and you've been in business, by the way, I should point out, for six and a half years. So congratulations in the founding of your company.

Juli (00:08:54) - Thank you. It's it's been a lot of fun. It has been a lot of fun.

Juli (00:09:00) - It definitely felt like a nice high watermark to clear that one two year mark. And then when I hit five, got some pieces together here. Yeah. So but take us.

Josh (00:09:09) - Through the kind of the list of clients, types of clients that you've worked with. Because I think we all know someone that owns either a brick and mortar or, you know, a business might make a good introduction for you.

Juli (00:09:22) - Oh, that's such a kind offer. And yes, I would absolutely appreciate a conversation of any kind on retail, to be quite honest. The types of clients that I've been very fortunate to work with are ones such as Petco. I've worked with CVS. I've worked with a couple of regional grocers, for example. So some on the East Coast, both wholesale as well as direct to consumer consumer based retailers. A really fun grocer down in Texas who I'm still working with, so I won't name them specifically, but those are the types of teams that I love to work with, really mass and specialty.

Juli (00:10:02) - Having grown up in a mass retail background, I've found that the expertise that I build and the types of tools and resources that I put together and that that negotiations and partnership toolkit really lend themselves well to that type of scale and scope of work. But very sincerely happy to have retail conversations of of any kind. Should anyone from the audience be interested in chatting more?

Josh (00:10:24) - Yeah. And Juli, I know you kind of touched on this a little bit earlier, but what is it that you could likely do for a client that might be a little bit more challenging for them to do themselves? In other words, why would. Why do we need jewelry? We could just do it.

Juli (00:10:41) - Why do we need jewelry? The what I have found, especially in the negotiating space, when you're taking a step back and thinking through what are the partnerships that I need to build and what type of value do I need to be able to offer, that is difficult work to be able to do for yourself. And I find even personally when I'm negotiating, whether it's the price of a car or with my kids or my partner, I am not the as effective as a negotiator as I am on behalf of someone else.

Juli (00:11:11) - And so when you've got someone that's a third party who can take a step back and actually take you through the building of the strategy and thinking about where your interests are and then how to really position your asks or your your negotiating challenges and help you do that from an independent perspective as opposed to that internal perspective that you have. You're often able to drive much more impactful results. And candidly, in retail, there are always a lot of very urgent and pressing things. And sometimes those partnerships and relationships get relegated to the the sphere of importance, but not urgent, so they don't get the attention that they need. And as a consultant, I'm really able to help carve out space and approach and and take you through the process of evaluating those partnerships and building and executing those negotiation strategies in a way that is more strategic, more more speedy. It goes faster and often delivers greater results. So those are the things that I usually lean to when working with working with clients and helping them deliver some amazing results.

Josh (00:12:15) - Yeah.

Josh (00:12:16) - What does like and sounds like? You have really good industry reputation, pretty good network, but what do you do today to grow your own consultancy?

Juli (00:12:28) - A lot of my marketing efforts are focused in conversations like these, to be perfectly candid. I don't have my own.

Josh (00:12:34) - I don't mind.

Juli (00:12:39) - I don't have my own podcast, but I absolutely fall in love with the idea of having conversations with audiences that are excited to learn more about retail, about partnerships, and then also within supply chain that that sourcing partnership and deepening those sourcing partnerships. And I also work pretty closely with a few different industry groups. So whether that's helping them organize events, presenting, facilitating at those events, really just to help get the message out of that I feel is incredibly important about how to deepen supplier partnerships and how to really be able to drive value overall. And the third topic, just to touch on one more that I support my clients with is helping to build more circular or zero waste products and supply chains. So really helping suppliers show up as as the partners they need to be with their retailers to help bring those sustainability goals to life.

Juli (00:13:31) - Yeah, if you kind of think through negotiating and partnerships, that's sort of my my painkiller approach. So how to think about what what's a pain I'm solving? And on the sustainability side, that's a little bit more of the the vitamin, I think I've heard you say. So it's more of like helping. So there's two parts of my business that I like to talk about often. The very urgent and painful one is our costs are going up and we need help negotiating. And then after that, sometimes we're able to get to the sustainability piece. So how do I show up as a better partner for the environment where my products are made and sold and used, which is also a lot of fun?

Josh (00:14:03) - What trends, Juli, are you most excited about in retail? You know, I think that and I'd also love if you could maybe couch this in, maybe this fear that online is just going to cannibalize every bit of in-store retail. I don't think that's the case, but I would love your take on that.

Juli (00:14:27) - There are a lot of fun pieces to pull apart there. I'll start with the last piece that you focused on. The online is going to be taking over the in-store experience. And I think as we navigated that post Covid, that immediate post Covid response, we saw an acceleration of a lot of different trends. And that's true not just in retail, but as we're hitting the a couple of years out now, we're starting to see that for the most part where the the consumption rates are or the penetration rates across a variety of industries is pretty much where we would have been if we had stayed on that same through line pre-COVID. Wow. So basically it's right size. So the penetration, while it did swing rapidly for in-store versus online sales because stores were closed, it's normalized basically where it was. And there are certain businesses that are continuing to see more accelerated growth like groceries and example, where grocery was just having a tough time getting whether it was online shipments or by online pickups in store trends. That was just one of the last parts of retail that was really embracing that more systemized approach or that that moving away from the in-person shopping experience, that would probably be a gap where you're seeing slightly accelerated trends for online shopping versus in-person.

Juli (00:15:53) - But the rest of the industry, it's it's pretty much where we would have expected it to be. What it is important to say from a consumer perspective that the expectations have changed. So if someone is going to go into a store now, their expectation is that it is much more of an experience. So, yes, you might be running in really quickly on your way home to grab your milk or eggs or something that you need for your for dinner or like a swimsuit that someone needs for a swim meet the next day, things like that. There's still the drop in. But mostly now, if you're thinking of going to a store, you're setting aside time. It's an experience. You want the strategy. Well organized and really overdeliver on your expectations. Because if. If you just need something super basic and super commoditized, you can get anywhere. You can do a quick online shop and find out who's got the best price and who's going to get it to you in the next 2 or 3 days and just buy it.

Juli (00:16:44) - So that's where I see the biggest distinction now and into the broader question that you asked. Like some of the trends in retail, I think retailers that are doing well now are being very thoughtful in that in-store experience and showing up in over delivering. And the online experience is also very straightforward, very streamlined. There's creative uses of AI for fit technology or shipment tracking. So not to say that that the online business is in any ways lacking, that's also being elevated. But the groups that are thinking about experience of where our customers are showing up and what their expectations are and how do we really delight them and exceed those expectations, those are the retailers that have still fairly healthy business as we navigate even some fairly uncertain economic times.

Josh (00:17:27) - Yeah. And I think, you know, kind of given some of the trends and some of the very notable closures that we have seen, I think that if anything, you know, it just it stresses to retailers of all stripes that you can't rest on your laurels today. You need to keep innovating because, quite frankly, consumers demand it.

Juli (00:17:48) - Absolutely. And while we are seeing a lot of closures, my favorite statistic to listen to when I hear some of those retail apocalypse type conversations with all the stores that are closing, how many are opening? And sometimes it's definitely going to be a bit of a lagging indicator. But there's a lot of places like when Bed Bath and Beyond starts to close and give up some of their leases. A lot of those leases got picked up by retailers that were excited to either move out of the DTC space and get a really great deal on a lease. And they were looking to expand their physical footprint in a way that they might not have been able to before.

Josh (00:18:22) - Yeah. Our local one that was closing in the very same breath Bed Bath Beyond going out. HomeGoods coming in.

Juli (00:18:29) - Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And you're seeing that across the country.

Josh (00:18:32) - Yeah. This is exciting, Juli. I really, you know, probably geek out on this conversation I didn't even share with you kind of my background. For 15, 16 years, I've studied and lead on consumer behavior, specializing in kind of the particularly run grocery and that sort of thing.

Josh (00:18:47) - So that's my savings angel persona. So yeah, really, really enjoyed our conversation. But Juli, I want to make sure that folks listening to our conversation or maybe, you know, they did some research on you, they found this podcast, now they've listened to our conversation. What are the next steps in terms of like, do can they have a conversation with you? How do you typically work with new people in your world?

Juli (00:19:09) - I love meeting new people in all different ways. So I would say the most informal way. Certainly feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. You'll see my my spelling of my name in the in the podcast notes, I'm sure. But I'm the only Juli Juli Lassow lass W on LinkedIn, so feel free to reach out to me there. I'm active Connector on LinkedIn and I share a lot of industry trends on sourcing, on own brands, on sustainability and circular economy. So you can get a little bit of a sense of what I'm watching and what I'm seeing as emerging trends.

Juli (00:19:41) - But if you go to my website and you are also thoughtful enough to tee that up for me as well. So that's solutions. You can see a little bit more detail on the service offerings that I have. So the way that I show up and support matrix building, sourcing negotiations and the circular economy, there's a little bit more information on each of those. And then there is a helpful little button to click if you're interested in having a conversation to have better understand if there's some support that would be helpful for you and if it might make sense for us to work together.

Josh (00:20:09) - Yeah. Juli Lassow again. Your website j h You're the the founder and principal. Juli, it's been a great conversation. Thank you so much.

Juli (00:20:22) - Josh thanks so much for having me. Appreciate it.

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