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You Want It When?!

February 14, 2008

Maybe it’s just me, but if you introduce a new product at the July Premarket, I think it should ship well before April of the following year! This is just another problem caused by going offshore. Instead of manufacturing product, vendors have become marketing agents for offshore manufacturers. In the process, they have lost control of product availability.

I remember the time when I never ordered "new" introductions by Brown Jordan because they would not be able to get the product to me before the upcoming season ended. Invariably, the "new" product was being made for them by another manufacturer rather than in their own factories. Thank goodness that has changed and Brown Jordan has taken control of their product.

There are so many balls a manufacturer has to juggle under the best of circumstances; I wonder why they are willing to take on more by going off shore. Yes, it can be cheaper to get product from offshore, but look at the down side. Shipping of containers can be delayed for reasons of weather, holidays, or even availability of containers. The cost of oil raises or lowers (but usually raises) freight costs. The weak dollar raises the prices of items manufactured in countries that let their currency float. Gosh, dealing with union strikes and local government environmental regulations seem minor when compared to the myriad of potential global problems.

But I digress. It is disrespectful to us as retailers for a vendor to present product at market which they may or may not be able to supply. I go to a market prepared to lock down what my floor is going to look like for the upcoming season. I spend valuable time making decisions towards that goal. If a manufacturer turns out to be unreliable and I have to revisit those decisions, it is a slap in my face. And, you know what, I don’t care why the product isn’t ready; the manufacturer has the responsibility, as a professional, to live up to their representations.

When I was discussing this problem with someone this week, they said the funniest thing, "Well, I’m surprised you are getting even a few pieces of that new product since almost no one else has gotten any yet." Please . . . misery may like company but it still hates being miserable!

Even as I rant, I know vendors understand the problems they cause when they can’t live up to their promises. They don’t want retailers to consider them an unreliable source any more than we want them to be unreliable. But, no matter how many balls a manufacturer is juggling, availability of product should be THE reason they are in business. You can have great designs, wonderful marketing plans, relevant swatch books, the best quality, and super service, but if you can’t produce product, why should I do business with you?

On another more serious subject, I would like to take a moment to remember Bert Singleton from The Hammock Source. Bert passed away in December after an unsuccessful fight with cancer. I really liked Bert. Whenever I called him, I knew he was going to be able to help me because he cared enough to become an expert in his company. He was fun to be with at markets. Most important, he added integrity to our industry, a commodity in short supply. He will be missed.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce