(A quick look at what independent retailers want from their vendor partners)
Janie Williams runs The Biggest Little Kitchen Store with her two sons, a full time staffer and a couple of part timers. She stocks more than 5,000 skus in her bustling, 2,600 sq. ft. store, and in addition to day-to-day customers, she also orders product for bi-monthly store demonstration events.
The upshot? Like many independent retailers, Williams is busy in the store selling product on the floor, listening and talking with her customers who are by extension, of course, her vendors’ customers, as well.
She says technology has swamped her ordering process. “We get over 200 emails a day from vendors. Any successful retailer running their own store does not have time to sit at a computer and go through it all. It is a challenge to make sure you aren’t clicking something off as junk mail because you are tired.”
She wishes every vendor had the ability to answer a phone or respond to a fax and compares two experiences to make her point. In the first situation, she had to order from a well-known vendor whose primary business is specialty retailers. Williams booked a demonstration event and had one week to order 60 gadgets from that vendor. She knew the products would be popular.
“I called them up and they turned the order down because I did not go through my rep. I could not leave the store floor and go to the back office and figure out their chain of command. It took me 45 minutes to find a person from that company who would listen to me,” she said.
A second, similar situation occurred with her vendor, Norpro. Again, Williams was hosting a big group in a week’s time. “We just called Norpro up and they took our order over the phone,” she said.
Williams also has an overall complaint about manufacturer’s reps. “The manufacturers keep changing the reps around and it is so frustrating. We don’t even keep the contact names because they change reps so often.”