Why should retailers be concerned with evergreen contracts?

May 4th, 2010

Because they can cost you a fortune if the original contract was not properly negotiated.

This author has been asked on numerous occasions why I am so concerned with evergreen contracts. First, let’s discuss what an evergreen contract is. A simple definition is that it is a contract or an agreement between two parties (you and your supplier) that is automatically renewed or rolled over after each completion period which is typically a year, until canceled by the either party.

This does not sound so bad at first glance, particularly if the current terms of the contract such as price, performance, quality, service or service level are all being met and are to your advantage when they automatically renew.  However this is not normally the case, particularly with contracts that are driven by commodity markets such as oil, chemicals, resins, pulp, steel and many others. In addition you can bet if the advantage is in your favor in the initial contract that your current supplier will notify you in writing within the specified period which is usually 60 days that they are going to let the contract expire or want to renegotiate.

In the retail trade where there is very few sophisticated contract management solutions deployed, the cost to the industry annually runs in the billions of dollars. This is because the original contract normally has language that includes price increases above the current contract when it auto renews and the auto renewal is normally for a year if the supplier is not notified in writing prior to the anniversary date. Once renewed you are stuck. This happens because most buyers or executives think they will remember in time to notify your supplier when in fact this almost never is the case. As most retail companies have thousands of contracts in the place the amount of data requiring review is unmanageable.

Contract management solutions that offer alert subsystems based on contracts Meta data are the best solution to this problem and typically provide near immediate ROI based solely on the cost avoidance associated with evergreen contracts.

SafeSourcing offers an easy to use solution called SafeContract™ to help our customers with this problem. Ask you solution provider how they can help you.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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