Throwing in the Towel on Vendor TroublesBy
Whether it is a product of the weak economic recovery or the result of poor planning customer service is an issue negatively impacting many in the industry as of May. A couple of years ago emails or letters would occasionally arrive from suppliers announcing the launch of a new product line, a merger or acqusition. Sometimes they would also detail service improvements or expansions. Now every couple of days an email will arrive from a Top 40 supplier with an apology for poor service with promises of improvements on the horizon. Today it was Logomark, a few days ago it was Bullet. The “we’re working on it” approach is great for suppliers as for the most part they aren’t the ones taking the hit when a customer has to go to a show or event empty handed because the supplier didn’t ship or in some other way messed up the order. The customer will probably never order from that distributor again but the supplier will likely still get orders from the customer that didn’t fully understand it was never the distributors fault in the first place.
At this point we are throwing in the towel and are taking the approach of “show us” the improvements. Suppliers want to blame business growth as an excuse for all that has happened. Sure there is no doubt for some suppliers business has grown remarkably in 2012. But the larger problem is that most were running lean on people as we emerged from the recession and were ill prepared to handle the growth and pent up demand after it ended. Regardless of the cause suppliers need to get a handle on the situation and fix the problems because the industry in part has taken a step back in the last few months to days of old. Rapid order production has been removed by several suppliers and others are pushing back regular production schedules by a few days. That leaves distributors to deal with suppliers still at the top of their game like Leed’s which has hit it out of the park with their line of personalized towels as part of the Pro Towels partnership. Pro Towels has produced custom printed beach towels, golf towels and fitness towels for many years. By partnering with Leed’s they have greatly expanded their reach. Most of the towels include up to a 6 color logo or embroidery depending on the product. Golf towels usually end up embroidered, beach and fitness towels usually get screen printed, or as Leeds calls it “beachprint.” Stock is decent, quality is excellent and customers can trust that Leed’s will get the job done and get the product out the door or at the very least in an emergency tell the distributor that the order cannot be produced so alternatives can be explored before deadlines are missed.
It is obvious the first quarter was strong for many distributors and in turn suppliers. A look at the ASI Promogram demonstrates both suppliers and distributors saw growth in the first quarter of the year. In fact a few of the publicly traded companies have raised their projections for 2012. In the next month or two we will learn whether or not the changes being implemented by suppliers is enough to stem the tide and get them back on track. In the meantime we’re sticking with manufacturers that have consistently provided terrific service and are urging our customers to do the same thing.