The trends, the issues, and productive business
Why Independents Aren't More "Loyal"
to Small Vendors
Large vendors: Can't live with 'em, can't live
By Lisa Kanak The Cropper’s Corner (August 15, 2005)
(Note: In the previous issue, a vendor complained that,
while she tried to stay loyal to independents – not selling at
consumer shows or online, etc. – independents did not return that
What this manufacturer says is true, the majority of independents
are not building relationships with manufacturers by ordering
consistently (or reordering at all). Unfortunately, the feeling out
there is that independents have to "product hop" to keep
consumers interested. And, to be fair, a little product hopping is
necessary – but we independents probably do far too much.
Independents need to be looking for solid performers to keep
sales chugging, but many of us don't know what those are.
Unfortunately, this often means committing to a large manufacturer
for those items, because they offer the depth and variety that
stores need to stock.
While the big manufacturers do things that can hurt stores
(product dumping, QVC, etc.), this is really more of a communication
problem (manufacturers don't tell their stores what's going on) than
anything else. When companies sell off product, the appropriate
thing to do is let their retailers know that product line X has been
sold to Big Lots, and give the stores time to discontinue it BEFORE
it's on the shelves (as EK Success recently did).
Big manufacturers are many times the back-bone of an
independent's sales; 40% of our store's sales in embellishments and
stickers come from EK Success, K&Company, Sandylion, and Making
Memories. The other 60% of sales come from a myriad of
small-to-medium companies that help round out the business, but none
of which could hope to replace those four.
The argument goes, if the "big boxes" have it,
independents shouldn't. But the fact is, most scrappers don't head
to a box store with their 40% OFF coupons to pick up stickers and
embellishments. They usually head there – coupon in hand – for
big ticket items. It's a fallacy to think independents cannot
compete with the boxes when it comes to these smaller items.
It's these smaller items that keep us in business. In fact, there
is a penny difference between Wal-Mart's price on Jolee's and our
store – and that holds true for pretty much all of the "big
boxes" and pricing on smaller items.
Re-ordering product is just as much a problem for large
manufacturers as it is for small manufacturers. Roughly 70% of all
retailers don't re-order most products. That's frightening. It means
we're gambling way too much, period.
We need to make more decisions based upon sales figures than
feelings. Sometimes, the sales figures favor a large manufacturer;
sometimes they favor a small- to mid-sized manufacturer. But the
real issue is that it is the retailer's job to sell. That means we
have to stock what customers purchase.
As a larger independent retailer, I can honestly say that our
store could not survive without the core product lines of the larger
manufacturers – nor could we survive without the innovative,
unique products from the smaller manufacturers. We need them both to
create a diverse and interesting product mix in our store.
(Note. The Cropper's Corner is at 1621 Carl D. Silver
Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA 22401. To contact Lisa, call her home
office at 540-752-1935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous Memory columns, click on the titles in the
right-hand column. To comment on this or any other issue, email CLN