As a firearms retailer, you count on continuous services from your vendors. Indeed, today’s vendors need to be your business partners. Having said that, the street goes both ways. You as a retailer also need to be your vendors’ partner.
Let’s start with the retailer side of the coin. Retailers should expect vendor sales reps to offer:
- Quality products at competitive cost.
- Products available in a range of price points.
- Products that are delivered in a timely manner and have high fill rates.
- Buying programs where the vendor makes buying merchandise easy and painless for retailers.
Promotional and merchandising support that includes point of sale displays, marketing literature, merchandise (particularly goods that are attractively packaged), premiums for volume buys, rep participation at special events, and national corporate advertising support are all elements retailers should look for in establishing potential long-term relationships with vendors. Co-op advertising opportunities should also be explored and, if a vendor you prefer doesn’t offer that option, they should be receptive to working with you to secure special territorial development funds.
Good reps know the business of retailing, not just the business of middle-man selling, and that means everyone involved can work towards one common goal—profit. The more you sell to your customers, the more you buy from the vendors, and everyone wins. But, to make that happen, reps need to be an extended arm of your organization, not just from an educational and advisory perspective, but also by rolling up their sleeves and working with you to get things done together.
Of course, working together means there are things the vendor should expect of the retailer, too. These include:
- Buying and displaying a well-rounded selection of vendor-supplied merchandise, instead of just cherry-picking a few hot-selling items.
- Timely order placement. If retailers want a high fill rate, they need to order and reorder products early enough to allow vendors time to supply as much of an order as possible.
- Effective store merchandising and promotion. Retailers need to display vendor items so that they will sell. If the vendor is spending big bucks on supportive advertising and promotion, retailers need to tie those things in by displaying that merchandise prominently and working to increase store traffic.
- Make vendors comfortable and welcome when they take the time to attend special events your store is hosting. Remember, the traveling sales rep is generally far from home, hotel bound, and eating on the go. Make sure their needs are met while they’re helping your store profit, including arranging for discounted hotels, taking them out to dinner or breakfast, and providing an itinerary of local sites and activities if they’re going to be in town for more than just the day.
- Most importantly of all, pay your invoices in full and on time. Vendors aren’t banks, and since many of them (if not most) work on commission, they often don’t get paid until their company gets paid.
When it comes down to it, your best relationships with your vendors will happen when you understand and recognize their limits and know what they can and cannot do. Talk to them. Have the conversation about what works best for both of you. Treat your reps in a fair, courteous, and respectful manner, and make time for them when they call. They’re there to work with you, so that everyone profits.
About the Author
William F. Kendy is a well-known firearms industry writer, speaker and marketing, advertising, sales and customer service consultant. He has written for SHOT Business, Range Report, Shooting Sports Retailer, Fishing Tackle Retailer, Advertising Age and other outdoor publications. He also works closely with the NSSF on presentations at SHOT Show University and SHOT Show Retail Seminars, and he’s also hosted a number of videos and webinars on the NSSF website.