Working With Scrapbooking Manufacturers
Working well with manufacturers is key to a scrapbook store’s success. Surprisingly, not all manufacturers will be beating down your door to sell you product. They may even put up barriers such as requiring large minimums (such as 10 packages of the same dimensional stickers, or a total order of at least $500) or adding unexpected “handling” charges to your order. Be sure to get the terms up front, in writing. Reputable companies should be willing to do this. In a recent issue of Craftrends, vendors argued that minimum orders actually keep prices down overall, but these matters continue to be a thorn in the side for many store owners.
In some cases, a “middleman” can actually be a help to the scrapbook store owner. Distributors such as Notions Marketing and Petersen-Arne carry the products of many manufacturers, and are often able to sell in lesser quantities and ship faster than if you had gone directly to the e\manufacturer. Also, many companies contract with representatives who travel throughout territories, bearing catalogs and product samples and taking orders for products from several manufacturers at one time. Good reps call ahead and set up a meeting for when you have time to focus on the task at hand. It’s fun to see all the great, new products, but it’s also easy to get carried away. See “Knowing Your Market” for more on this topic.
If you preorder product, such as at a trade show or well before its release, be sure you and the vendor are on the same page regarding when you will be billed—or you may have an unpleasant surprise waiting for you on your credit card or bank statement.
When you do order, make careful note of the shipping timeline. You’ll want holiday-themed supplies to arrive well before the holiday, and if you’re ordering for a class, crop, Make-and-Take or other special event, order early with a clear ship date or you’ll be empty-handed or faced with a hefty overnight mail bill. Be aware of special events that could delay your order, such as if everyone is away at a convention or slammed with trade show orders. If your order arrives damaged in transit, even if it’s a pack of paper that’s “just a little bent,” call and let the manufacturer know so they can make it right. Also, be advised that some freight companies contend that by signing for a package, you acknowledge it arrived in satisfactory condition.
Accepting special orders from customers take a lot of time, but they build good will and generate revenue. Establish a system (such as a dedicated binder) for keeping track of special orders, be realistic with customers about when they can expect their items to arrive and be prompt in notifying customers of their order’s arrival. Consider requiring at least part of the payment up front, if not all of it, so you’re not stuck with product you didn’t want. Similarly, be sure to establish a clear return policy for all purchases—perhaps 30 days on unused or defective items.