Ask Your Vendor Partners for Help
Vendors should serve as business partners, not merely suppliers. In my experience, I've found that vendors really can make an important contribution to your business. Or, they can just sell you stuff. The relationship you develop with them is up to you.
Now more than ever, you need trusted vendor partnerships. Assuming you've invested properly in the relationship over the years, here are five things your vendors should do for you today:
1. provide you with important benchmarks on how their product categories — and your competitors — are doing to help you gauge your current sales relative to what's going on in the marketplace;
2. come up with new product ideas and/or repositioning currently sold products to juice sales in this tough marketplace;
3. take on assembly-, packaging-, sorting- and/or return-related tasks to help you reduce costs;
4. add technology to help increase productivity and cut costs; and
5. advise you on what costs to cut and when to do it.
When times are tough, you certainly find out who your friends are. If you've been "vendor bending" for every nickel of price reduction over the past 10 years, chances are you aren't going to get "value enhancement" now. But if you've cultivated true vendor partnerships over the years, now is the time you'll reap the rewards.
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Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.