Dive Into a New Product Category
Also in your Vendor Guide, spell out the consequences of late deliveries. “Technically, if the merchandise is past the purchase order, or contract ship date, the cataloger can refuse the shipment,” Mollo explains. “However, most catalogers still need the merchandise and usually will charge back the vendor on a per-backorder basis.”
The key here, says Mollo, isn’t to create a line on your profit and loss statement for income from vendor chargebacks. Rather, it’s to establish a relationship in which the vendor notifies you in advance of potential delays. In this way, delivery flow and perhaps reduced purchase order quantities can be negotiated, rather than you and the vendor getting into a chargeback situation. The goal here is timely delivery so you can avoid backorders in the first place.
While all vendors should be required to follow the rules stated in your Vendor Guide, more leeway sometimes may be allowed to so-called “A”-level or best-regarded vendors. “One size does not fit all,” says Cooper. “The merchandise varies, the size of the vendor’s company varies, and shipping methods vary. So the rules and penalties should vary, too. The rules, quality sampling and penalties should be accurately applied to each vendor or small vendor groupings with similar characteristics.”
She adds that vendor gradings of A, B, C and D — based on total performance — can be useful and, they provide leverage in future negotiations.
Interview: A Passion for Products
There are no shortage of challenges for today’s catalog merchandising and creative professionals. To be successful they must: undergo a continual search for brand-relevant merchandise; learn how to profitably and efficiently use ever-changing merchandising data; stay updated on catalog creative trends and solutions; deliver on the company’s brand promise; and collaborate expertly with other corporate teams.
Doreen Carstens, vice president of merchandising and creative at Miles Kimball, Oshkosh, Wis., tackles these and other challenges every day in her work on the company’s four catalog titles: Miles Kimball, Miles Kimball Cards, Exposures and Home Market-place. The company sells gifts, cards, home décor and accessories, photo albums, and frames. She recently shared her hard-won insights and sound strategies with contributing writer Alicia Orr Suman.