March 11, 2024 I In the Trenches I by Cyph Shah

Overlooked Tips for Suppliers

As dealers, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day duties of running a successful retail business. From assisting customers in our showrooms to dealing with employee inquiries, we rely on our vendors to do what they can to make our lives a little bit easier when they come to the table. As such, there are a few simple, yet often overlooked opportunities where suppliers can provide critical value and reduce the burden on their dealers. Whichever side of the fence you live on, the following advice is dedicated to you:

1. Revamp your product display boxes. Get away from plain cardboard boxes. It may sound silly, but boring brown boxes don’t make their way onto Astro AVL’s beautifully curated showroom floor. While you’re at it, ensure you’re using boxes that are durable enough to prevent caving and suffering under stacked merchandise that may sit for a few months. No one wants to buy a product in a box that’s showing even the slightest cosmetic imperfections due to the implication it has seen some abuse in transit or handling. I have one brand in particular often puts me in position of easing uncertain customers with the half-joke, half-truth: “They make great products, but sh*tty boxes.”

Dealer tip: Rotate your boxes that tend to sit the longest to reduce compression on bottom.

2. Reconsider online product pricing. When showing product pricing on a manufacturer’s website, list the products at MSRP or higher to give dealers a fighting chance to sell at MAP. Brands that sell direct to consumer from their site at MAP and then ask for business from our Los Angeles DJ store are making it clear they’re more interested in their own e-commerce than their retail presence because they’re creating competition with us. As a DJ shop that’s been in our community for more than 50 years, I can say with certainty that retail stores are where customers come to get hands on with a product so they can purchase with confidence. But, if they feel they can easily demo it in a shop and later purchase from the manufacturer website directly, we essentially become a conduit for traffic to go other places. It doesn’t give us our own incentive to support that process.

Dealer Tip: Ask to be placed on the brand’s Dealer Locator website page for easy leads. When I audited our vendors’ sites you would be surprised how many didn’t list our shop when we have been working with them for 20-plus years. No one will fact check this for you but you! Also, when approached by rep firms seeking your business, check the brands’ sites to spot any e-commerce they’re offering. Doing so will help you understand the dynamics of the relationship going forward. Sometimes your rep firm may not even be aware of many of the things you bring to their attention and they can be a voice for you up the pipeline.

3. Strategize in-store visits. Hey manufacturers: Don’t drop into a retail store just to flash a catalog and expect a staff’s full attention. Ask if you can conduct product training for new hires. Take the pressure off the purchaser’s demanding schedule by drafting an order based on their feedback for them to review after you leave. Do the legwork. Make it easy to buy from you, Help them take advantage of achieving free freight minimums and remind them of special rebate offers on things they’re ordering. Don’t be afraid of unannounced drop-ins. If your demeanor makes it clear it’s a casual, commitment-free visit you may find the purchaser just so happens to have a few extra minutes to chit chat. Oftentimes, those types of meetings turn into a surprisingly productive conversation for both. If you’re just sitting in front of your computer sending e-blasts all day, you’re doing it wrong.

Dealer Tip: Drop-ins are the perfect time to utilize your rep for content creation for social media. Ask them if they can explain a product catering to your desired demographic in short content form. Also, capitalize on employee training reinforcement by requesting the rep targets your team’s known weak areas.

4. Offer an efficient return merchandise authorization (RMA) process. Every product launch and manufacturing run has some defects, whether it’s Pioneer DJ, Rane or just your local source for gaffers tape. What counts is how it’s handled. An efficiently communicated and timely RMA process will let dealers know you support them and they’ll relay that to their customers when they’re on the fence about a product’s reliability. If the RMA process is a nightmare, then the dealer will be less inclined to sell your product for fear of the time it will eat up. This is especially true on brand new product releases. Dealers don’t want to have to keep tabs on pending RMAs any more than they have to. Personally, the brands that don’t have this sorted properly tend to fall off my radar because I don’ want to spend my precious energy chasing them to correct their product’s shortcomings.

Dealer Tip: Ask if a manufacturer can issue a shipping call tag for defective units. It will save money and time and many manufacturers still abide by this reasonable request. In fact, those manufacturers are my favorites and it helps me buy with confidence.

5. Create target demographic dealer groups for your e-blasts. I get so many emails from the same rep with products that don’t relate to our scope at all — sometimes six-plus in the same day between the “Hot Monthly Specials,” ”B-Stock Reports,” and “Low Inventory Reports.” I just tune them all out altogether. More than that, it gets a little annoying and I start to categorize the rep into the “spammy” section of my brain.

Dealer Tip: When prospective vendors call or stop in, pull up their website and give them some background on what you’re interested in from their line card. Ask them to recap in an email with additional selections from their top seller reports. In doing so, it will ensure they understand your needs and will also affirm that they’re organized and willing to go the extra mile for you now and later down the line.

Bottom line, be an asset and a resource to those around you and they will support your cause, whether that’s defined today by one company or tomorrow by the next. The respect you earn on the job by being great at it is yours to keep. MI

Cyph Shah is the manager of Astro Audio Video and Lighting in Glendale, California. He is also the lead instructor of the DJ School (Astro Mix Lab) and designs/commissions AVL systems for nightlife, art exhibits, corporate showrooms, sports facilities and live performance venues as Astro’s installation foreman. He has performed across the country for more than 20 years as a club DJ and releases electronic music productions amongst international record labels.

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