Thursday, October 15, 2009

we're all in this together {part two}


Hello! I promise that our {hostess of the week} feature is coming back soon, but while we're waiting on our friends' photos and answers to arrive in our inbox, I thought another industry discussion might be in order.

My son Charlie is on a swim team. There are about 500 kids on the team, broken into about 10 different levels. Fees for the team and number of practices per week vary by level. At each level, there are some kids who go to every practice and meet they're eligible for, but showing up for a certain number of practices or meets is not mandatory. The kids who go to every practice and meet obviously get more of the coaches' time, even though they don't pay any more in fees than the other kids do. In this sense, the kids who go less often are underwriting some of the costs associated with the kids who go more often. The brilliance of this set up is that it ensures that
whether 3 kids or 30 show up, the lights are on and a coach is present at every practice, and each swimmer can get out of the team as much as they're willing to put into it.

And what does this have to do with the stationery industry, you ask? Well, manufacturers are like the swim team. We need to keep "the lights on and a coach present" so that our retailers have products to sell. Unlike the swim team, however, we can't assess a fee for each retailer we have but instead have to rely upon actual sales. And if retailers across the board are selling less, and sometimes paying later, then how do we keep the proverbial lights on?

We've been talking to a lot of our industry friends as well as entrepreneurs outside of the industry, and the short answer to this question is: get creative. hen and barley press has launched a Trunk Show in A Box concept for the holidays to appeal to retailers who are stepping outside their shops and exhibiting at shopping events like Junior League shows, etc. We've launched virtual albums that allow any retailer to access and sell our personalized products. We've launched a small retail website and partnered with some local not for profits to have them sell our products to help them (and us) raise funds via the site.

All of these things are TOTALLY different from how we would have approached our business just a year ago. None of them are meant to take business from or undermine our retailers in any way. In fact, all of the ideas have one goal: keep the lights on and a coach present so we can continue to sell our products to our retailers. It's that simple. And I would imagine that manufacturers and retailers have this goal in common. For manufacturers and retailers alike to achieve this goal, and come out of this shaky recovery stronger, we all need to get creative. If you're part of this industry, ask yourself how you are addressing the realities (and realities is an important word) of: changing buying habits, both wholesale and retail; changing production methods, both wholesale and retail; changing world?

Clinging to the "rules" as we once knew them seems like such a waste of energy when we must surely all be low on energy...let's face it--things have changed. Period. The realities are: Internet? Here to stay. Online shopping? Here to stay, and yes, even with paper. Printing on demand technology? Here to stay. Stocking less inventory? Here to stay. Selling and buying through mediums other than trade shows? Here to stay.

How about focusing the discourse on how we're going to navigate these changes together? How are you getting creative right now to embrace these realities and still "keep the lights on and a coach present?" Let's hear it!

1 comment:

  1. really, really great post jenny! so insightful!

    ReplyDelete