Doug Fleener, he of the Retail Contrarian blog and The Daily Retail Experience newsletter has been attending a conference in Phoenix. The purpose of the conference was for retailers and vendors to get together and talk to each other, something that we probably don't do often enough.
"* Communication, communication, communication. Over and over I heard vendors tell retailers that they want to work with them. Vendors know they can only succeed if their retailers succeed. So why is it that sometimes we act like we're not on the same team? We retailers need to partner with vendors on ordering, sell through, and events. I think there are times we retailers don't ask enough of our vendors. And I'm not talking about discounts, dating, or free shipping, I'm talking about asking them for honest opinions and feedback on what we're doing well and not doing well."
I consider myself the retailer's advocate, but I do work for a vendor and I can assure you that Tacony Corporation along with the huge majority of vendors want to work with our retailers. We're on the same team.
Some retailers (and, sadly some vendors) believe that there's a pile of money that represents the difference between the cost to manufacture an item and the price the consumer pays; and that the size of that pile of money is fixed. They view the relationship between vendors and retailers as a tug-of-war. We're all fighting for the same dollars.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Vendors need retailers. Retailers need vendors. If we work together, we'll all make more money. If there's an enemy, it's the competition. Instead of fighting over our pile of money, we should all be trying to get some of their pile.
Here's a good example. At a meeting this morning, Ken Tacony read us a letter from a dealer. Since I don't have permission to use his name, I'll just give you an outline of what he said.
Two years ago one of our sales professionals convinced him to take on our Simplicity line of vacuums. In just two years, his business has tripled. He's reinvested the profit from the Simplicity vacs in his business and has changed the course of his business and his life.
Did we make money on the deal? Of course we did. Was it a win-win? You'd better believe it. Did this dealer make money buying our vacs? No. He made money selling our vacs--and we helped him with training, marketing materials, and other tools. That's what a good vendor does.
As Doug points out, retailers often don't ask for help. Or they view vendors offers of help with suspicion. After many years of selling, I can back him up. I can't tell you the amount of advertising and promotional funds I've seen go unused; the number of point-of-sale materials I've found collecting dust in back rooms; the non-functional displays I've repaired or replaced.
Right now you and your customers are being bombarded with negative news. Gas prices are up. Housing sales are down. We're turning food into fuel and now there's not enough to eat. The sky is falling! Run for your life!
But, unless there's an oil deposit under your store, you're going to have to keep doing what you're doing, only better. And the best place to find out how to do it better, and to get help doing it, is from your vendor partners.
But it's not a one-way street. Vendors need your help, too. If you see a better way to do something, let us know. If you see a way to make a product better, let us know. (See No More Lost Straws!) If a competitor is doing something better than we are, let us know.
If we all work together, we'll all come out ahead.
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