These days, the owners of independent retail shops have their work cut out for them in terms of surviving in a rapidly changing retail environment. In addition to increased competition from multi-store retailers and internet heavyweights, archery retailers in particular are facing lackluster growth in bowhunter numbers. That combination can make it hard for the independent store who has to go it alone.
Fortunately, retailers don’t have to go it alone. Independent pro shops who work with distributors have a partner invested in their success. And the help those distributor partners offer can be invaluable in thriving despite today’s retail challenges.
Reduce Inventory Risk
When your customers look at your shelves, they see products. But you know that what’s really sitting on your shelves is money – money that can be tied up for months if the products you chose don’t sell quickly. And when that money sits on your shelves for extended periods of time, it can’t be used to buy other, better-selling products.
“We can reduce retailers’ risk by allowing them to utilize our inventory instead of them assuming the risk by carrying this much inventory in their stores,” said Dave Parker, director of sales and strategy for Kinsey’s. “There are so many new items that come out each year, and not all of them are going to sell. But your distributor typically puts most if not all of those new products in their lineup.
“With a distributor, a retailer doesn’t have to buy all that direct on a program. They can buy small quantities and find out what sells for them. Ultimately, it requires them to use less capital.”
Luckily, today’s distributors have impressive catalogs full of the kinds of products your customers want.
“When you work with a distributor, they become your one-stop shop,” said Business Development Sales Executive Danielle Krieg of Zanders. A longtime distributor in the firearms industry, Zanders recently brought its expertise and capabilities to the archery industry. “At Zanders, you can buy all of the product you need for your store, whether that is clothing, ammo, archery equipment, handguns, long guns, whatever the case may be.”
Having that kind of selection at your fingertips means you have access to all the products you want with none of the risk.
Gain Valuable Insight
Getting the right products onto your shelves is important. Not only will hot products sell faster, but having the products people want in your shop means fewer people will walk out empty-handed because you didn’t carry the product they wanted.
“We have a lot of information available,” Parker said. “Many retailers ask us, ‘All the new products have been out for a few months, now what’s selling?’ We can provide them with top-ten lists in every category.
“And because of our position of servicing so many vendors and so many retailers, we have great visibility over what’s working and what isn’t. I really encourage retailers to ask. We can help them in a number of ways, like figuring out what the best sellers are. That information can really reduce a retailer’s risk. Because our sample size is so large, what we see is pretty much the truth. It’s pretty hard to get a fluke. If we see these five broadheads as the best sellers, chances are those are the top five sellers because it’s spread across demand from several thousand retailers. And all anybody has to do is ask and get that information.”
This information is particularly valuable as more brick-and-mortar retailers get involved in e-commerce. You may have a pretty good idea of what products local archers and bowhunters are interested in purchasing, but if you’re looking to sell products online, you need to take a larger view of consumer preferences. Your distributor partner can provide you with solid information about what products are actually selling – and that can give you a huge advantage over the competition.
Save on Shipping
Shipping costs really add up. This is a major reason why Amazon Prime is so successful with consumers – one flat fee gets consumers free two-day shipping on all their orders for a year.
Working with a distributor can save you big money when it comes to shipping costs.
“If retailers place orders with manufacturers directly, they might have, say, 10 shipments. If they buy all that direct, they can be paying freight 10 times. If they combine all that into a distribution order, most distributors have a flat rate. Kinsey’s, for example, has a flat rate of $3.50 if the retailer meets the minimum of $350. It might cost $10 a shipment for those 10 shipments direct from manufacturers. That would be $100 for 10 orders. When they combine that in one order from a distributor, it’s going to cost $3.50. That’s a savings of $96.50 just in freight.
“That kind of cost savings goes a long way to improving a retailer’s bottom line. It also means a retailer has to pay just one invoice instead of 10, so it creates accounting efficiencies as well.”
Money isn’t the only thing retailers who work with distributors save on shipping. Many save on shipping time as well. With their massive inventories, convenient locations around the country and automated capabilities, your distributor partner can often get product out to you quickly and efficiently. This allows you to be more nimble and better able to respond to customer demand.
Utilize Expert Capabilities
In another article in this issue on unengaged employees, one management expert advises companies to play to their employees’ strengths. That same principle holds true for working with your vendors. And when you use a distributor, you’re letting someone else do what they’re best at.
“Our expertise is in warehousing,” said Stefanie Zanders, general manager of Zanders. “We know how to warehouse, we know how to ship and our sales staff is made up of avid hunters who know the product. They know what they’re selling. They’re trained in it. We have good customer service and fast shipping. And we’ve also got a website that we’re working on constantly to have the best functionality out there.”
Zanders recently undertook a major expansion and now boasts a 150,000-square-foot warehouse facility. An emphasis on automation means that the distributor can process and ship orders quickly and accurately.
Lancaster Archery Supply takes great pride in its Archery TechXPerts. These Techical Experts are available to help you with most basic and technical questions. Do they know what they’re talking about? Well, the Lancaster Archery TechXPerts boast over 350 years of combined archery experience, making the team a phenomenal resource for retailers looking for answers. Lancaster Archery TechXPerts can be reached by phone or email.
Order More Easily
When you order directly from manufacturers, you have to place a number of different orders, worrying about minimum orders and shipping costs, to fully stock your store. Working with a distributor allows you to streamline the ordering process.
In fact, distributors have made ordering what you need exceptionally easy. Take Pape’s, for example. Pape’s offers a customer website that lets you place orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most orders ship either the day you place the order or the next business day. Once your order is placed, you can check the statues any time online, and Pape’s provides you with tracking information so you know when to expect your shipment.
Take Advantage of Educational Opportunities
As we said earlier, when you work with a distributor, you have a partner that is invested in your success. Kinsey’s has gone to great lengths to help its customers be more successful.
“We developed and launched our Kinsey’s University three years ago,” said Parker. “We offer a series of educational opportunities to invest in the retailers out there and make them more successful.
“This year, we did several seminars. We’ve done two bow technician certification courses. That’s a two-day course that teaches attendees all about bow mechanics and bow tuning and all those kinds of things. We also did a session based on the ATA’s Retail Growth Initiative, which helped attendees get Level I Coaching certification. We also put them through the program so they could learn how to utilize their ranges and monetize their ranges into becoming prominent revenue streams.
“We just met yesterday and started planning the 2017 schedule. We’re going to expand it again. We’re going to offer more technician classes, more business-oriented classes with various business modules. We want to help those retailers who want to learn, to give them that opportunity.
“That’s a big thing for us. We’re trying to create platforms where all the retailers have to do is come and we’ll give them all the answers.”
Here, Parker laughed. “Okay, most of the answers,” he clarified. “I don’t know anybody who knows all of the answers.”
That may be true. But when you take advantage of everything a distributor has to offer you and your retail shop, you’ll come closer to knowing all of the answers. And that can only mean good things for your bottom line.
This article originally ran in the July/August 2016 issue of Archery Business.