Commentary by Tom Columbia

Sustenance Comes From The Top Down

Seek out a reliable Primary Distributor (PD) that offers genuine marketing support that reenforces a consistent presentation of the product and is backed by an alliance of likeminded dealers. Advertising the scissors brand on social media, emails, publications, direct mail, or at regional events are perceived as bolstering the awareness of their products. These marketing expenses are included in the dealer cost of the product and then passed into the final retail price; the benefits should be obvious to the entire network. Offering additional discounts as an increased incentive on legitimate promotions is unwarranted. Profits from a sale is the money left over after deducting your expenses, nobody is immune to the cost of doing business. For every 10% discount you will have to sell exponentially more product to meet expenses. The conundrum is that every customer still has expectations of support and product excellence, and fulfilling these obligations are reliant on the profit.

Often multiple entities associated with the scissors brand assume the right to solicit a loyal buyer. Whether these contacts with the customer are acceptable to you or not, it is going to happen, and they are opportunities that entice buying. The good news is that when you are a cooperative partner with your scissors brands PD these interactions can offer long-term benefits. Questions can arise about warranty support, satisfaction surveys, exchanges,

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returns, refunds, routine servicing, and the residual sales spawned by marketing. Nevertheless, no matter how good intentioned a plan appears at its inception, defining mutual responsibilities at the onset is paramount.

Even authentic marketing could be misconstrued as an encroachment on sales if you have chosen to be a lethargic partner or an intermittent dealer, while the opposite being true for the ones that are committed. The objectives amongst business associates can have varying levels of importance and can be misunderstood, overlooked, or perhaps intentionally ignored. Depending on the seasonal or monthly special is not an efficient plan.

So, it is the PD that must first commit to the same set of standards as they require from their sales network. PDs selling at exhibitions or on their website ought to equally benefit the entire network. If this is not the case, while marketing practices fluctuate on the internet or at shows it disrupts the routine face to face sales of their vendors. Stylist often search a brands official website yet finding a listing for local representative is like looking for “Waldo.” They also plan for months to migrate to regional events that initiates delaying a purchase with the anticipation of unadvertised specials. Meanwhile bonafide dealers can often be oblivious to the PDs ever-shifting special programs. It is realistic to believe that many PDs never have to sell their own scissors at the “original price” to be profitable, yet the dealer cost is based on that fictional regular price that nobody has ever paid. Does this encourage a vendor to invest in a scissors brand and to adhere to pricing guidelines? The thought behind not updating the network in advance of even the slightest price or policy change is baffling and it exacerbates their never-ending quest to compete with the various prices that inundate their customers. Staying apprised, is a shared obligation that saves the embarrassment of being unaware of the latest changes during a sales meeting. The tipping point is when an apathetic dealer forms the belief that a team effort is more valuable than continuing the unrewarding cycle of discounting. The roots that nurture or strangle growth receive their sustenance from the top down.

Exploring what's new is the natural reaction when customers are already familiar with a scissors brand and trust the quality. In the best of circumstances, the stylists would be informed by their representative about the latest innovations, making it redundant to rely on an outside source. Seeing media adverts or attending an exhibition should only confirm what is already known to them from the dealer’s routine salon visits. Salespeople exhibiting complacency ultimately become aware that they missed a sales opportunity during the next visit at the salon, which can be disheartening.

Partner with PDs that work directly with their dealer network in advance of promoting to customers, then you will at least have the option to participate in the programs being offered. Usually it involves a limited buy-in of the promotional items to use to motivate the stylist and secure sales. Waiting to participate once the campaign has proven its worth can be a missed opportunity. Your opinion on a promotion could be relevant to its success, never underestimate the value of your input, especially when being thoughtful and practical. Vendors and PDs often collaborate with trial promotions that are specific to a region, then its success could be shared and expanded to the entire network. Some of the most innovative ideas often come from the one’s doing the face-to-face presentations.

Ultimately customers choose with whom they conduct business, an assumption of a proprietary claim to all future business is at best a wishful dream. Consumer loyalty is earned or lost with every communication. With that said, in the discourse of competing for that loyalty, it reveals the vendor most deserving of the customers business. It is the reward for closing the sale, understanding the buyers need, providing a quality product, and offering ongoing service. Namely, it is the incentive to continue reproducing your success and relinquishing this prize is out of the question. To satisfy the customers’ expectations of support there must be an equitable agreement on regional boundaries. This emphasizes the rationale behind collaborating with a trustworthy PD that prioritizes your success as one of its goals. Without an arrangement the bonafide dealer exposes every righteous sale as fair game and reveals another type of competition, intrusions, and sometimes it is from the same companies that you acquired the product.

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It is worthwhile to verify the source behind any intrusive placement of your scissors brand in your active, loyal accounts. By being attentive you might escape the challenges that I experienced with a longtime PD, which I trusted. You might choose an alternate solution; I prefer my approach. As a regional dealer I depended on face-to-face sales that was also supported by my website. It was unnerving to find that my web traffic was systematically redirected to the official site of the PD; numerous customers were erroneously led to believe that purchasing from them was the same as buying

from me. I had little success at holding the PDs accountable when I discovered several intrusive sales. By exploring Google search protocols, I found cyber fingerprints on the PDs website revealing the metadata used to intercept their vendors internet customers. Their intent was to obscure the results of the intended search to effectively lure brand loyal stylist to their website. When your scissors brand begins to appear in active loyal accounts, and they were not bought from you, take the time to delve into its source. Stylists are quite forthcoming when talking about their scissors. Perhaps you presented these scissors on a previous visit and after some thought the stylist decided to order them from your website, and mistakenly believed they did. Yet, those scissors are now in the hands of a loyal customer, and you did not sell them. Is this a coincidence. I don’t believe it is

No-one's main competitor should be the company from which they buy product. Could this merely be good marketing on their part or a predatory scheme to circumvent their own supply network. When I randomly stumbled onto their intrusive transactions, I convinced the PD to reimburse me. This was a tactical concession on their part to downplay their veiled admission of devious activity. However, it had the appearance of a constantly cheating spouse apologizing. Clever promoting or not, this was not a good business practice because the partnership deteriorated into nonexistence. I had been purchasing thousands of dollars’ worth of scissors each month for many years. Ironically, this PD had a ballistic response when the situation was reversed, and his manufacturer set up exhibitions at large shows to solicit his network of vendors and to sell directly to stylist. Could this be a collapsing of an entire supply chain, abandoning commitments, and devouring itself.

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Then there are uncommitted merchants without any specific allegiances that readily scoop-up sales with products that they have no intension of representing. They usually purchased a single scissor at a time from a willing PD or an acquaintance that theoretically is a legitimate dealer located outside the region. These sources are easily traced back to its origins, confirm and then present the evidence, be courteous but don't be timid when you speak out. Dealers that divert product never expect to get caught, they would not tolerate these same tactics being used against them. Despite their denials of involvement, the activity usually ceases, it is awkward to be confronted with undeniable evidence and it speaks to credibility. PDs maintain sales records and they should be eager to eliminate these incursions, when being defensive about the topic it is likely that it is tolerated. Using the excuse of not having control of where a product ends up once it is sold is warranted until an actual diverter is discovered, then action can be taken.

Safeguarding your business arrangements is an admirable commitment to the brand and should be recognized by the PD in that capacity. Unfortunately, the PD that ignores intrusions is stating that the diverters business is more important than yours. Eliminating a brand that disrespects its own network is necessary if you intend to grow your retail business. Your value as a vender is always greater than the product that you sell. Simply said, your successes will not go unnoticed, and everybody wants to chip away at your accomplishments. These activities, though they are not an everyday occurrence, will continue if you allow them to go on, defend your achievements, learn the source of every intrusion, and hold the culprit accountable. Business experiences such as these teaches you to be preemptive in your negotiations with your Primary Distributors. A genuine commitment produces an equally authentic response.