Supplier Cooperation at Christmas Can Be Revealing
Thanks for your patience while I took a few extra days off. This is the busiest time of year, and if you’ve got time to be checking this blog, you really should be out on the sales floor helping customers. If you work in wholesale or marketing, you should be dropping by your nearest retailer and be out on the floor helping customers. This was rather common a few decades back, now it’s a rarity to have publisher staff in the stores doing whatever needs to be done, though I know of at least one store that was forever in the debt of a sales rep who took two hours out to help a store get their vacuum cleaner fixed. That just never happens these days, but that store rewarded that salesman with generous purchasing in the months that followed.
Here in the land of ice and snow the Canadian branch of David C. Cook really gets it when it comes to getting whatever product they can from their warehouse to stores. The “Red Hot Rush” program not only processes orders rapidly but ships free for surface delivery and at half price for air freight. Furthermore, the program runs right through Dec 30th for those post-Christmas orders and emergency re-stock situations. Kudos to DCC (Canada) for keeping alive a program that CMC originated, and one that they could have easily dumped when they purchased CMC. Those last few days before the 25th can be like an extra month-and-a-half compressed into a very short period, and having a just-in-time delivery system also avoids compromising inventory expenditure.
On the other extreme, while HarperCollins Canada drops “designated ship days” for all of two weeks (Dec 5-16) the program is not available during that critical final week. This is the company that repeatedly earns “supplier of the year” in Canada from general market stores, so I don’t want to swim too strong against the current here, but it’s a mystery why they drop the program when it is most needed. Anything I order next Monday won’t arrive until Friday, which, with shipping on the 24th rather variable, means it may not arrive at all. But this month is also the time of year that HarperCollins wholesale customers are most acutely aware of the liabilities of its “import-to-order’ system on slower moving titles. Apparently this really grates on some accounts, and it does render impossible getting anything after the 21-days-before-Christmas mark. The company needs to realize that while independent distributors may not carry every title exhaustively from every supplier, HarperCollins is both publisher and distributor in this case, and they have plenty of room in their Scarborough warehouse to carry at least a single copy of many of these items. With the number of SKUs involved in the Thomas Nelson deal, this situation may actually get worse for Christian retailers.
Augsburg-Fortress Canada, on the other hand, will bend over backwards to rush something to a store prior to the big day. Generally, the smaller a company, the greater flexibility you’re going to see. Retailers need to work with suppliers who understand the retail mission. Sadly, for too many, it’s been years since they’ve ever looked a customer in the eye.