Know your suppliers!


Once upon a time in retail, suppliers were very touchy about what you sold, how their product would sit within your shop,  how you would market it and the geographical proximity of competitors.

The internet’s changed all that – to a degree. There are suppliers who simply still refuse to acknowledge the internet as a marketplace with which they want to be associated, are protective of their brand and feel that it is impossible to police the net in the same manner as the physical shop.

I understand the dilemma of wanting to protect your brand but the messages from wholesalers can be so inconsistent.

One potential supplier in particular sells products over which I simply salivate whenever I see them, so much so that I’ve thought to myself, “Is it worth getting a high street shop again?” NO NO NO…….but I do miss not being able to sell it and I can’t name names because I’d love to think that one day they’d actually let me aboard!!!

Their argument is that they can control and dictate the outlets who vend their wares, they can see that the product has been displayed to best effect and sits with the flavour of said physical shop perfectly, but that they can’t do this online.

Why not?

I will never understand why they are so reticent and so naive about what is and what is not possible. What frustrates me even more is that if you do have a physical shop and you also have a website for that shop then they will allow you to sell online.

If you are an online entity only, however, they will not even entertain a conversation.

I had an interesting chat a few years back with a supplier who was launching a  brand new line on a certain day, ironically I think it was April 1st, at midday. By 1pm this brand new gift line was on Ebay with a Buy It Now price equal to the wholesale price. I know we all like a bargain but what were the suppliers thinking? Who makes the money there? Those of us who abided by the recommended retail price (RRP) set by the wholesaler looked instantly like we were ripping off the customer selling at twice the Ebay rate.

In this situation what then transpires is that the product in mind is instantly devalued and nobody can sell it let alone the wholesaler, so it bombs! When I drew this item to their attention and asked how in hell the rest of us were supposed to be making a living they’d had no idea how it had happened???!!

When I looked into buying a certain range of cufflinks I asked the manufacturers who else they supplied online. Oh they only had 6 or 7 people selling online, there wouldn’t be an issue of competition. I placed a pro-forma order and said I’d take a look once I was back at the office. At 35 different online vendors I gave up. They had no idea who was selling their product or how many sites.

Suppliers who sell their own lines online are usually very good and know the score. They either sell under a different name or sell at an RRP.

There are others who grate. Sadly they are usually the smaller makers and my heart does go out to them, but…

They sell their wares at the wholesale price direct to the public then chase you to buy from them too at the same price. Where’s the incentive? They put their own web address on every item so even if you do sell their lines once, you never restock because the customer then knows where to buy directly from the maker.

Where’s the long term thinking, the sustainability? Phrases like cake and eating it spring to mind….or burning bridges…or biting the hand that feeds you. Make your mind up – do you want to wholesale or not?

Another supplier hounded me month in month out to buy their product. It was a new product, they were being exclusive about who represented them. They were opting for boutiques in terms of physical shops, and, online, were being uber selective about who sold their lines. They liked newroomsonline, felt their product sat perfectly with what I sell and were desperate to get in with me. A few months later their products were on one of those carboot sale style websites. One particular bag they’d wanted to sell to me at a wholesale of £9 was selling at £9.99.  They went into administration in March!

Desperate times call for desperate measures and I don’t blame anyone for wanting and needing to make a living but be clear about who you want to make your living from and don’t hassle me if your modus operandi mimics one of the above practices and I refuse politely.

I could say things like joined-up thinking, working together, singing off the same hymn sheet, collaborative working, synergy or even coalition…..but then I’d instantly lose any credibility…I do have some, right?


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