If you pay attention to business news as it relates to hunting, then you know there have been a multitude of recent manufacturer acquisitions. We asked three veteran retailers: Does this hurt or help your business? Here’s what they had to say.
In some instances, we’ve seen that product quality deteriorates once a small company is acquired by a large one. This is especially true with broadheads. Folks can easily start up broadhead companies here and then move manufacturing overseas. This often results in inferior product.
We don’t settle for selling junk. When product quality suffers, we move on and find a comparable product of better quality from another manufacturer. And we’re always able to find replacements.
On the positive side, the larger the companies are, the better the purchasing programs are that they offer to dealers. I’m talking about longer terms and discounts for paying early. These generally aren’t available through smaller manufacturers.
Sales reps bridge the communication barrier between dealers and manufacturers. Of course, if you’re stuck with a poor rep, communication can be very frustrating. It seems that your phone calls get tossed from one person to another before people finally understand what you’re after.
Unfortunately, box stores that order large product quantities seem to have more bargaining power with corporately owned companies. In one case, a large chain retailer was selling a product at $15 below MAP pricing. Lots of smaller dealers complained, but the manufacturer did little to help. They offered to give us a measly $5 credit for every said product we sold, which is obviously ridiculous. We’re supposed to keep track of all that during our busy season? Give me a break.
The same chain retailer pulled a similar stunt on another product from the same manufacturer the following month. Things like this make us look bad in the consumer’s eye. It appears that we’re overcharging, when in reality the box store was severely undercutting us. It’s bad business.
Looking to the future, I believe one of the greatest threats we face is if these large companies go direct-to-consumer and cut retailers out entirely. And, of course, product quality is high on the list, too. Pricing isn’t the problem. I know my customers will buy $50 broadheads over less expensive ones if it means higher quality. That is something manufacturers must understand. Inexpensive pricing doesn’t replace quality.
Corporately owned manufacturers have simplified communication by providing us with sales reps. I go through them for all my needs. There is one company that has failed me in terms of providing a sales rep. They actually have one for my region, but he won’t come and see me. That is the only negative experience I’ve had with these acquisitions, and it’s certainly not the standard.
Overall, it’s been great. The product quality seems to have remained intact. I should also mention that for a smaller shop to hit, say, a $5,000 minimum order, it helps when you can pick and choose products from multiple manufacturers under the same parent company to reach that amount.
That coin certainly has two sides. The positive aspect of dealing with companies who are under a parent company is that we work with one sales rep for every company under their umbrella. We’re able to order a pile of product and get dating on shipments. Some sales reps fail to bring product into the store for us to see, but most do pretty well at showing us what we want to see. These are pluses.
There are several downsides worth mentioning, too. First of all, shipments sometimes arrive late or don’t show up at all. Also, we’ve seen product quality decline after certain companies were acquired.
Communication generally becomes more challenging following acquisitions as well. How many times do you get a real person and not an automated voice when you call a company? It’s obviously more difficult to reach who you’re trying to reach. Of course, sales orders can be placed with our sales reps, but customer service is hit and miss with these large companies.
I also believe there are concerns with our ability to compete with box stores that also carry products from these same large companies. For example, a nearby box store was selling a certain lighted nock cheaper than dealers can buy it for. And, the lighted nock manufacturer did nothing to stop it after receiving complaints. In many cases, corporately owned companies listen more attentively to box stores that are buying larger product quantities than brick-and-mortar pro shops like mine.
Overall, I hope manufacturers see the value of maintaining product quality once they acquire companies that were formerly family owned or otherwise. In fact, I hope they take quality above and beyond.