In a 1971 effort to halt inflation, the Nixon administration froze wages and prices for 90 days. He froze them again in 1973. Manufacturers raised prices before the freezes—then didn’t lower them. Instead of reducing prices, they began giving discounts to retailers that could be passed on to consumers for limited times.
In the mid-80s, retailers began taking control. They launched programs aimed at boosting volume—and the dollars stores would earn as products passed through their shelves. This was the birth of today’s trade promotion programs and the fees retailers collect for them. Trade promotion costs have risen steadily since the late 2000s.
Today, trade spend is still a crucial aspect of doing business, but it helps brands manage their business rather than hurt them. The purpose of trade spending today is to encourage promotion via discount, secure additional distribution, or shelf space, or to drive additional volume. It can be in the form of a percent discount from list price, an amount per unit, or a fixed or lump-sum payment for merchandising provided by the retailer.