A case for distributors.
Independent skateboard distributors have played an important role in the growth of our industry. They not only help skateboard companies expand their distribution, but they also help new retailers grow their businesses. Many of today’s distributors have been selling skateboards and skateboard-related products longer than most brands and retailers have been in business, and chances are you’ve used an independent distributor to order product at one time or another.
Unless you’re ordering from one or two distributors on a monthly basis, you’re not using them to your full advantage. Here’s how and why incorporating independent distributors into your regular ordering can allow you to provide superior customer service and give your shop the best chance to succeed by saving you time, money, and stress.
How much time and effort goes into maintaining each of your store’s vendors? Think of the time spent on the phone, receiving shipments, filing invoices, and cutting checks. Multiply this by all your existing vendors and you will quickly realize why it often seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. Using a distributor can save you time by decreasing the number of vendors you regularly work with, without diminishing the variety of product that you carry.
At Urban 9 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, owner Reno Broussard is a big fan of independent distributors: “I can almost cut my amount of paperwork in half by using a distributor to bring in a variety of product with only one invoice to pay. And the time I save can be used for more important things, such as promoting my shop and attracting new customers.”
Another new way distributors are allowing retailers to free up their time is through online ordering. South Shore was one of the first distributors to offer this service, but many more are now following. South Shore Sales Manager John Watkins believes this is one of the best ways for retailers to make the most of their time. “A shop is given a protected password where they can access our inventory and check stock levels,” says Watkins. “The buyer can then place an order anytime, day or night.”
Imagine the time and stress you can save by being able to place shop orders at your convenience, from home or anywhere else you may have Internet access.
Using independent distributors can also greatly impact your bottom line through substantial savings on freight charges. While the majority of skateboard manufacturers are located in California, there is more than likely a distributor located within your store’s regular three-day ground-shipping region. The fewer miles your shipment has to travel, the less shipping charges you’ll incur. This makes distributors an excellent resource for purchasing heavy goods like trucks and griptape.
Joe Varricchio, owner of Shred Shed in West Palm Beach, Florida, says regional considerations are why he uses distributors on a regular basis to order merchandise for his shop: “Using distributors is somewhat a must. Shipping charges from the West Coast on trucks and other heavy items eat up my profit margins. It’s very easy working with distributors and getting orders up to a dollar amount that can save me the shipping charges altogether.”
In addition to saving on freight charges, you’ll also save on C.O.D. charges by using a distributor to consolidate shipments. Look to combine small multiple orders into one larger order placed with a single vendor. Saving a few C.O.D. charges each month can add up over the course of a year and quickly increase the margins on your orders.
Most distributors offer terms to credit-worthy shops. Working with a distributor can allow you to take advantage of terms on products from companies you have yet to establish credit with. It can also give you time to sell that product before the invoice is due./P>
“I go deep when I buy direct, and broad when I buy from distributors,” says Mitch Dettman, buyer at Bad Boyz Toyz in Chicago, Illinois. “This allows me to broaden my margins by saving on shipping and still take advantage of quantity discounts.”
By working with distributors you’ll find numerous ways to add profitability to your orders. Making one phone call versus five will decrease your phone bill, and one order instead of five will save you unnecessary freight and C.O.D. charges.
Improve Customer Service
Using a distributor to handle your special orders can be a cost-effective way to meet your customers’ needs. Not only will you be able to get the product more quickly than buying direct, you’ll also have the ability to buy product you may not typically carry. Offering your customers this type of customer service will set you apart from your competition and build a loyal customer following.
Testing a new product line can be accomplished with little risk when using an independent distributor. Forget about minimum orders and bringing in more product than you feel comfortable with. A distributor will you allow to “test the waters” before you get wet. The capacity to try new products on a regular basis will give your shop better variety and increased customer appeal.
The knowledge and advice a distributor can provide is another asset that can improve your business. Established in 1972, Ocean Avenue Skateboard Distribution has been in business longer than most skateboard manufacturers. Owner Bruce Walker takes pride in the fact that his years of experience can aid his customers in building successful businesses: “We often offer advice to accounts on how to move old inventory and increase sales. While it may not help us make the sale that day, we know in the long run we were freeing up the customer’s cash flow to eventually buy more product.”
There are many good reasons to combine distributors into your regular ordering cycle. It’s stuck in the mindset that ordering direct is always the best way to go. Tony Aimone, manager at AWH Distribution in Evanston, Illinois, suggests a mix of buying direct and buying from distributors. “Shops can prebook orders for spring and fall direct with the manufacturer, and use distributors to do fill-in orders later,” he says. “This way they get the best of both worlds.”
Try analyzing the orders you place over the next few weeks, and target the products that could be ordered collectively with a local distributor. Discovering the right blend of direct and distributor orders can improve the profitability of your store. Distributors can fill a definite niche to provide your store with tools and products that save you time, money, and stress. And more importantly, it’ll keep your customers coming back for years to come.