4 Ways Retailers Can Attract Customers in 2018

Isn’t it Amazon’s fault?

Well, yes, Amazon is a leading factor in the demise of many retailers. But, believe it or not, it’s far from the only factor. And in many cases, it may not even be the primary factor.

So if you think you’re in trouble because of the unstoppable behemoth that Amazon is, you don’t necessarily need to fret. It’s easy to point to Amazon. But if you analyze your own company, you likely have solid opportunity to remain competitive for decades to come.

Here’s what to look for:

1. Tap New Markets

We won’t name names, but a massive athletic wear brand has poor domestic sales because they’re not serving the booming athleisure market. “Athleisure” refers to athletic wear suitable for both exercise and everyday wear.

Lululemon has focused in on this market quite well. And they’re reaping the rewards.

Do you have any similar opportunities?

2. Continue the Transition to Online Sales

Every chain certainly recognizes this trend, which will only continue to grow across the globe. However, many aren’t changing their business models to match.

Do you have a team or entire department solely dedicated to increasing online sales? Have you hired the sharpest consultants and firms to help you make the transition faster and with fewer costly mistakes?

You can visit the websites of many leading retailers…and find them making even basic mistakes that cost them droves of sales (like a slow or awkward website experience).

3. Appeal to Millennials and Generation Z

Globally and domestically, Millennials and Generation Z are the largest generations in terms of sheer numbers. Some brands designed to appeal to older generations don’t have many (or any) product lines targeted at these generations.

Who primarily buys your product? Do you have product lines focused on these younger, up-and-coming generations with serious spending power?

Other brands have full awareness of this issue, yet fail to adapt. But they’ve done so only to cause themselves more pain.

4. Create Original Products the Market Wants

Easier said than done, this is the surest way to retail success. For some retailers who’ve dominated markets for years, it’s hard to accept this fact.

Think of Crocs, for example. Remember when practically everyone had a pair of these casual shoes?

Though they’ve been hurting, they’re trying to inject fresh life into their brand with new lines of shoes. Hopefully, they’ve tested these with the market and confirmed their value.

How can you do the same?

Competing with Amazon directly is impossible. But you can survive and thrive here in 2018 and beyond with the right tactics.

5 Ways to Improve Your Packaging Efficiency

Every business benefits from efficiency, but retail especially benefits from every last little optimization you can make in all your processes. That includes how you package your product.

So take a look at a few ways you might use to improve your packaging efficiency:

1. Plan Your Packaging Design from the Beginning

Many businesses leave this over as a final step in the process. Big mistake! You must have a clear plan for your packaging in mind from the outset. It’s crucial for winning attention and more sales.

With your packaging, consider its cost, design, space required on the shelf, and how much space you have for production.

2. The Massive Difference Machinery Makes

The most skilled and well-intended employee just can’t match up with a machine. The typical pallet wrapper increases pallet wrapping speed by an astonishing 70%.

So how much work do people currently do on your packaging? Perform an audit and figure out how much using machinery can improve your efficiency. It may also make sense to hire an experienced consultant to perform an analysis of your packaging.

3. Gather as Much Data as Possible

You don’t have to use IoT, but that’s clearly a trend that makes sense to capitalize on. Whether you use IoT or find other methods for data collection, it’s key to determining your packaging efficiency.

You’ll want to look at your film waste, damaged product, and time required to package, among many other data points. You may also want to work closely with your supplier, who knows the latest price fluctuations.

4. Don’t Forget to Analyze How You Use Your Space

The typical occupancy cost (cost of your space and utilities divided by your total cost per order) runs from 25-35%. So some of the first places you should look for efficiency improvement should be up and around.

Receiving, picking, packing, and shipping should use 40-50% of your space. Product storage should use the remainder. Racks, mezzanines, conveyor belts, and multilevel order-picking can dramatically improve your efficiency.

5. Communicate Performance Metrics To Your Team

Your team needs to understand your baseline. They must know what they’re doing is measured so they can learn what to do to help improve your packaging efficiency.

Most employees want to know exactly how they’re performing. They take pride in improving productivity.

So, create your own system for doing that. Consider including challenges with performance-based incentives to increase productivity even further.

There you have a mini packaging efficiency audit. And you have solid ideas for improving your efficiency going forward.

President’s Club Vendor Profile: Bocks Board Packaging

We’re taking a bit of a detour from the direction our vendor profiles typically take. Up to this point, we’ve discussed fairly large companies, including many household brands.

Bocks Board is a smaller company focused on specialized product niches other vendors up to this point haven’t necessarily honed in on. Other vendors may produce these products too. However, they’re not a focus for those companies.

But for Bocks Board, these non-typical product lines are the standard. Take a look at some examples to see what we mean:

1. Freezer Paper

Yep. It’s necessary. And up to this point, you haven’t seen any of our vendors who produce this.

Bocks Board makes three kinds of freezer paper, ranging from heavy to light. In addition to being used to package food for freezer storage, this paper also gets used in industrial applications where poly wrap is required (typically with certain metals and lumber).

2. Steak Paper

Well, someone’s gotta make it, don’t they? Bocks Board’s steak paper isn’t just used to protect steaks.

It also enhances the appearance of the meat to improve sales.

3. Pizza Inserts

Note that this does not refer to pizza boxes or containers that store pizzas. Pizza inserts instead sit under carry-out pizzas and absorb grease so it doesn’t run through the box and make a mess for customers.

This also preserves the quality of the pizza. The grease and oil would otherwise also get absorbed by the pizza, which would make it soggy. And clearly, that would bother many customers.

So yes, it’s a small thing. But it makes a big difference to companies that sell pizza.

4. Bogus Paper

Don’t believe the name – it’s 100% legit!

Bogus paper uses recyclable raw materials from boxes, phone books, newspapers, and regular books. Brown and gray in color, bogus paper feels fluffier and softer than other paper used as void fill and dunnage.

Typically, companies who manufacture industrial tools and appliances use this for wrapping. Other industries that use this include auto parts, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and tile and brick manufacturers.

So yes, Bocks Board Packaging undoubtedly fulfills a niche need. And when they make sense for your company, we’re more than happy to recommend them to you.

What Your Warehouse Operations Audit Must Include

Does your entire warehouse operate with optimum efficiency?

It’s a gargantuan task to undertake and maintain. So, it can be easy to overlook opportunities for gains in efficiency.

Make sure your audit checks these:

1. Investing in High-Value Equipment

The key words here are “high-value.” The opposite of high-value is “cheap” or “good enough.”

Many smaller companies fall into the trap of doing the latter. While this does save short-term capital, it costs you more money in the long run.

You must also measure your cost of operations in terms of productivity. So, when you do purchase equipment, make sure it’s the best you can get. If it’s not high-value, save more capital and get more valuable machinery later. Better to go that route than to buy cheaper machinery that isn’t as efficient and requires more maintenance.

2. Eliminate Movement, Touches, and Paper

Paper is slow and awkward. Movement takes time. The more hands you get on something, the less efficient in becomes.

Workstations should accommodate employees’ need for mobility. Transitioning your operations to digital from paper saves an absurd amount of time. And analyzing all the steps in any process so fewer hands are on it results in great efficiency savings also.

3. Make Your KPIs Abundantly Obvious to Everyone

Whether you put this on a public screen in your warehouse or on every employee’s computer monitor, a constant reminder of your KPIs keeps everyone focused on them. When minds focus on those, greater efficiency results.

Employees who see their actions make a difference feel motivated to do even better. You might even add bonuses like profit sharing or cost-savings sharing to employee checks when they hit certain goals.

4. Ask Your Employees

Who better to help you make efficiency improvements than those who work in the trenches 40 hours per week, and 2000 hours per year?

Not every employee suggestion will be a high-priority opportunity for efficiency gains. However, you will certainly uncover your areas for the greatest gains. And employees who feel listened to respond with greater motivation and engagement. Plus, you might find many more ways to improve efficiency than you first realized.

5. Using Automation and the Right Tools

At this point, automation works best when working with people, not independently from them. That may change in the future, but for now, it’s the way things work.

The “right tools” do not include spreadsheets. Those are deprecated now. More sophisticated software gives you up-to-the-minute data with practically no grunt work. Voice enablement technology makes shipping, returns, and inventory control far more efficient, and it can pay for itself in 2-3 months.

Are you as efficient as you can be?

You only are if you constantly change and never stay comfortable. So hopefully these suggestions stimulate your thinking in the right direction!

President’s Club Vendor Spotlight: Avery Dennison

Switching up from many of our packaging products and facility supply vendors, we’re taking a look at Avery Dennison.

Although they do some packaging materials, they also manufacture and distribute adhesive materials, branding labels and tags, RFID inlays, and even some specialty medical products.

In 2016, they turned $6.086 billion in revenue. And to do something like that, you have to be quite good at what you do.

The husband/wife due of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Stanton Avery founded the company in Los Angeles in 1935 with a focus on adhesive labels. Though it’s been sold to CCL industries, the company retains its brand and logo. And in 2015, it still ranked #435 on the Fortune 500.

So when you get an Avery-Dennison recommendation from us, you should leap off your chair for joy!

1. Why Avery Nails Their Product Lines Better Than Anyone Else

Avery does everything from simple postage stamps, ranging all the way to high-performance freight labels. Their versatile products meet practically any specific requirements your company could possibly have – and much more.

That may mean they’re repositionable, resist moisture, or even fight the spread of various microbes. Many of their products have high-speed coatings, which allow Avery to cost-effectively produce a variety of materials at high speeds and with great consistency. This means you also end up with a functional, usable, and visible product.

2. Product Examples Competitors Can’t Match

Avery’s Flexis™ Steam Valve is a multi-layered laminate designed to keep pre-cooked foods sealed airtight until needed for cooking – without any intervention from the customer. So, customers can purchase their food and heat it without even removing it from the package. That also eliminates variation consumers could cause in the cooking of the food. Finally, it also reduces cooking time 20-50%.

Their new Janela™ solution allows apparel and footwear products to have a unique label which connects to an IoT-powered cloud platform. This allows you to capture real-time data, improve consumer experiences, and sell with greater efficiency.

When it comes to labels, that sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

3. Avery Helps You Achieve Your Sustainability Goals

Avery looks at the entire lifecycle of a product – from concept to where it ends up on earth after use. This has led to many of Avery’s products being made of bio-based materials. Avery itself refines its processes and technologies to make sure they best support the manufacturing of products from sustainable materials. And by extension, that means they help you achieve your sustainability goals too.

Avery clearly has more going on than other companies who produce similar products. You get features and benefits unavailable anywhere else. And that’s why you should feel excited when we recommend their products to you.

President’s Club Vendor Spotlight: Novolex’ Heritage Bag Product Line

Heritage Bag Company has been producing garbage and recycling can liners for more than 40 years. To Novolex, who acquired the brand in 2016, it simply made good sense to acquire and add the company to its product lines.

But why would Novolex choose to acquire Heritage Bag Company – which already had around 800 employees at the time?

Well, clearly there had to be something special about the brand and its products. They are the largest commercial can liner manufacturer in America, after all. So find out what makes Heritage Bag such an impressive product line that should make you light up when recommended:

1. Amazing Top-to-Bottom Company Quality

You only get a great product from a company that knows how to structure itself for achieving success. Product performance testing guarantees quality – and happens to the point where Heritage Bag establishes industry standards for can liners. Testing happens throughout the entire manufacturing process.

The sales team solely focuses on can liners. They do not sell anything else. That means they deliver the correct solutions with consistency you can’t get anywhere else.

All design happens in-house. And again, this team only focuses on can liners. This specialization allows Heritage Bag to react faster and with greater precision to market changes than any competing option.

2. Differentiation: Bag Thickness Isn’t The Whole Story

Customers sometimes get a little hung up on the thickness of bags as a measurement of their strength. However, Heritage Bag’s innovation in the resins and additives used to make their bags has resulted in thinner, lighter trash bags that are actually stronger and more durable than all others.

Their star seal can liners eliminate the possibility of leaks. And they also allow the bag to more easily conform to the shape of its container.

The company even designs its packaging for maximum ease. Their boxes include two different openings on the top which allow customers to access the product. They can stack these boxes to save access, and can still see all the information they need to know about the product.

Finally, Heritage Bag’s product labels conform to the “Truth in Labelling” provision set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Labeling specifications. That simply means what you read on the label is exactly what you get.

If you see Heritage Bag products you like, or if you find us recommending them to you, you should feel elated! You just can’t get better can liners anywhere else.

How to Differentiate Your In-Store Experience and Stay Competitive in 2018

Toys R Us, Nine West, Claire’s, and The Bon-Ton Stores have all declared bankruptcy recently.

…And you constantly hear the same old,”We can’t compete with Amazon,” line.
Is it a just a “line?”

Yes!

You can’t compete directly with Amazon. They’re really a tech company who dominates online retail.

But you can beat them at what they don’t do – brick-and-mortar retail. And you don’t need to worry that you will fail.

Maybe you can’t overcome the Amazon behemoth. But, you can absolutely grow and thrive in retail in 2018 and beyond if you have brick-and-mortar stores.

Just like anything else in business, you have to adapt and change. 9 of the top 10 retailers on the National Federation of Retailers’ 2017 Top 100 Retailers list have physical stores. So it’s totally possible to have them and lead the market.

The lone exception?

Amazon!

And here’s how you can survive and thrive with a differentiated in-store experience:

1. Make the Customer Journey Take the Fewest Steps Possible

Online, smart retailers understand every click their customers take to make a purchase. You need to have that same understanding and mindset with your in-store experience.

Your customers need to have absolutely no resistance to making their purchase whatsoever. Every step, no matter how small, is a negative.

You must study exactly how customers use your store, and learn what you can do to make their experience quick and easy.

2. A Truly Unique In-Store Experience

In their flagship store in New York City, Adidas allows you to buy juice and snacks, offers a personal fitness consult area, and even lets you customize your shoes and clothing.

Costco delivers a number of other services consumers may find interesting. They have a photo development center, prescription drug area, do car tire-changes, an available optometrist, and a number of other services they switch from time-to-time.

Kohls tried adding a Starbucks in-store in some of their Wisconsin stores. The idea didn’t work and eventually got canned.

…But that doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. They tried and tested adding value to their customers’ in-store experience.

Perhaps something in the execution went wrong. Maybe customers didn’t want to hold a coffee while shopping.

Who knows?

But, the point is Kohls does pay attention to innovating.

How can you apply the same thinking to your own store?

3. Hyper-Personalization

We’ve discussed personalization before. And now we’re going to expand the conversation.

Around half of consumers want a “hyper-personalized” experience, but less than a quarter get it. Smart retailers allow customers to login to their online accounts and view their purchase history, which associates then analyze and use to help customers meet their needs.

Can you survive and thrive with multiple stores in 2018 and beyond?

Yes.

You just have to be willing to fully commit to adapting to market changes.

President’s Club Vendor Spotlight: GOJO’s Purell

You’ve likely already heard of or have high familiarity with (or maybe you even use) Purell hand sanitizer.

And if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve already seen us profile GOJO.

Today, we’re going to hone in on a specific product line of theirs: Purell.

GOJO brought Purell to market back in 1988 when soaps and hand sanitizers only existed near sinks. Purell’s dispensers and bottles could be placed anywhere. In addition, Purell was refreshing and gentle on your hands – which compared to the harsh nature of other sanitizers.

So even in its infancy, Purell was quite an innovation versus other products.

What Makes Purell the Preferred Hand Sanitizer Among Doctors, Professionals, and Consumers Today?

Many hand sanitizers don’t deliver on their claims. That’s because they’re designed to fight bacteria, which actually become resistant to them.

They also contain triclosan, which is under close study. It’s a powerful chemical that may actually cause serious harm to our bodies and the environment.

Purell, however, is not antibacterial soap, so it doesn’t contain any triclosan at all. And at the same time, Purell delivers on its promises to kill 99.99% of common germs in just 15 seconds. That’s because it’s made of 70% ethyl alcohol.

Purell does deliver measurable business results. In fact, its Advanced Workforce Solution helped reduce one workplace’s healthcare claims related to hand-hygiene preventable illnesses by 24%. It also cut employee absenteeism by 13%.

What would similar results mean to your business?

It’s easy to minimize the importance of hand hygiene. After all, you don’t necessarily see the immediate results.

But in the medical industry, poor handwashing may have been responsible for up to 100,000 deaths!

…Maybe your business doesn’t put people’s lives at risk when it doesn’t observe good hand hygiene. But you can certainly see its importance.

To top it off, you can use Purell safely multiple times per day. They even add bitter-tasting ingredients to prevent children from consuming it around the home.

Purell has released its most potent germ-killing formula ever. And if your organization values hand hygiene, you’re certainly wise to use GOJO’s Purell!

Do You Make These 4 Shipping and Packaging Mistakes?

Put simply, business is really a series of mistakes and learning until you find what works.

And even in 2018, companies still make packaging mistakes.

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you may benefit from changing your packaging approach:

1. Overlooking Returns

You can pack your product absolutely perfectly – and sometimes it arrives damaged anyway.

Returns are frustrating and inconvenient for both you and the customer. But how you handle the return can actually win long-term loyalty from many customers.

That’s because they experience mishaps with every company. And how you handle that can strongly differentiate you from the competition.

So if damage does happen, simply include a pre-paid shipping label your customers can slap on to send your item back – without even talking to customer service.

Yes, money lost now. But, loyalty and many purchases won throughout the future equals a huge net gain for you – and your customer!

2. Using Too Much Dunnage

Forget about using packing peanuts anymore. No customer wants those flying all over the place and sticking to their product.

They’re also environmentally unfriendly.

More frequently, you might use too many air pillows, a couple of boxes more than necessary, or a tiny item floating around an oversized box.

Fit the product in the smallest box necessary – and keep it snug. That’s it. Simple!

3. Including Frustrating Packaging

Consumers are so eager to get into their product that they get easily frustrated with any small barrier. This actually has become so frequent it gets called “wrap rage.”

They don’t want to use scissors to open their product. They don’t want annoying clamshell packaging.

Just use a container, flexible plastic, corrugated material, or paper packaging to make their experience easy.

4. Not Enough Packaging

Some products haven’t been designed to be shipped over long distances. And the carrier shipping them hasn’t created their systems for those products. Packaging also hasn’t been designed for this purpose, either.

For example, say you buy a flat screen TV online like many other Americans. These frequently come damaged for all the reasons just discussed.

Even though including more than usual packaging isn’t environmentally friendly, you actually create a net savings by reducing your damaged item rate. There’s nothing more environmentally unfriendly than a broken product that needs to get sent back through the supply chain.

To ease your customers’ frustrations, you may include a short card explaining why you used the packaging materials you did and the fact that you actually reduce your environmental impact that way.

So, do you find yourself making any of these mistakes?

Taking action on them only reduces your costs and improves your reputation with your customers.

5 Top Innovations in The Packaging Industry in 2018

What’s going on in the packaging industry? Quite a bit, actually.

Marketing research firm Mintel identified several major trends already taking shape – and continuing to affect packaging in 2018 and beyond:

1. Consumers Worldwide Don’t Want to See Packaging Waste – Or Food Waste

You might think this trend primarily exists here in the West. However, it actually gets recognition now across the entire world. In response to consumer demand, smart companies will continue to find additional ways to reduce food and packaging waste – and they’ll make sure they communicate exactly how they do that to their customers.

2. Consumers Expect an In-Store Experience from Your E-Commerce Packaging

…In other words, they don’t just want a big brown box. They want to see branded packaging just like they pull off the shelf at a store. And they don’t want to get any more packaging than needed.

3. Simple, Readable Labels

Yes, consumers need a fair amount of information to decide whether to buy your product. And you do need to spend space differentiating your product from competing options.

Because retail is getting so hectic and complicated, you need to do a superior job of this. And then at the same time, you can’t overwhelm your consumer because then they’ll get frustrated and look at other options.

Figuring out how to communicate the most essential information, without overwhelming your customer, is something worth investing in to win more sales.

4. Focusing Specifically on Reducing Ocean Pollution

Packaging waste eventually finds its way into the ocean. This holds especially true for lightweight plastics.

This is just as much on consumers as it is your company.

What could you do to reduce the amount of waste this happens with?

Could you include a label or paper insert in your product that reminds your customer of how helpful they can be to the environment by properly disposing of or recycling packaging waste?

Could you revisit your packaging processes, or hire a consulting firm, to help you identify ways to reduce or change the packaging your product requires?

5. Refreshing the Center of Your Brick-and-Mortar Store

Millennials and generation Z consumers shop fresh and healthy products around the exterior of your store for the most part.

So what can you do to draw them back into the center?

Maybe you need to take a look at the products and brands you carry. Maybe you need to change up your packaging so it’s more noticeable.

With packaging, as with anything else in your business, change is the only constant.

Will you adapt and grow or stay the same and become irrelevant?

University of Connecticut Study Reveals Disgusting State of Hand Driers

Ever use air-powered hand dryers in a public restroom because you believe you’re staying more sanitary by not touching a paper towel dispenser?

Well, it turns out that may not be even remotely sanitary or healthy.

A joint study by the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University put 36 bacteria culture plates in men’s and women’s restrooms in an academic health center. Each culture got exposure to air from the hand driers for 30 seconds.

The Surprisingly Unhealthy Results

When exposed to regular bathroom air for 2 minutes without the hand driers running, a typical culture plate results in 1 or less colonies of bacteria. However, after just 30 seconds of exposure to hot air driers, the tested plates resulted in 18-60 colonies of bacteria each!

High efficiency filters made by Dyson did cut the amount of bacteria by 4 times. But clearly, that still leaves plenty of room for several bacteria colonies to grow.

However, the study couldn’t identify if hand dryers actually provide the means for bacteria to grow – or if they simply spread around bacteria already present in the air. Disgustingly, some of the particles in the air contain the fecal matter of others who have used the bathroom.

So, yes, clearly not a pleasant thought.

What Do You Do About All This?

Well at this point, honestly it’s still kind of early and really your own judgment call. Yes, several studies have implicated hand driers in spreading bacteria, viruses, and fecal matter.

So, you’d be safest in revisiting your sanitation protocols regarding these. And you’d be even safer in simply replacing them with automated paper towel dispensers people don’t have to touch. You may even want to include a brief sign in your bathrooms describing why you don’t use hand driers.

But of course, this includes additional costs. And then again, it’ll only be a matter of time before consumers and employees blame hand driers for the spread of disease. The mere sight of one could cause them to revolt in disgust – and harbor the same feelings against your company.

So, you have some thinking to do and decisions to make. Preliminary evidence seems to indicate most air hand driers aren’t good news.

Do you wait for confirmation? Or do you act early and prevent any possible damage to your business?

It’s a decision only you can make.

President’s Club Vendor Profile: Essendant

EssendantBesides janitorial and sanitary supplies, Essendant is a leading wholesaler of office supplies and furniture. Of all the President’s Club vendors we’ve profiled, they’re the first to make any such product line available.

You’ll love Essendant. But what makes them such a big deal? Why should you get excited when we recommend their products for your company?

Find out below:

  1. Nationwide Next-Day Fulfillment

Essendant is one of our few suppliers who’s truly mastered the power of technology. This makes their sales, marketing, and fulfillment processes so efficient they can fulfill your order typically within the next day.

That’s crazy fast! And it’s just one reason why they rank #484 in the Fortune 500.

  1. A Rigorous Business Partner Selection Process

Essendant doesn’t work with just any company to make more money. They’ll only work with you if they feel you’re a particularly strong fit for their business model.

They prefer companies who integrate diversity and inclusion into the fabric of their businesses. In Essendant’s view, this results in higher performance. “Diversity” to them means including people of different races, genders, communication styles, ages, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs.

  1. A Focus on Sustainability

As you might suspect, supplying office furniture could have quite an impact on the environment. Essendant is quite aware of this and has numerous processes in place to minimize environmental impact.

For example, this includes monitoring their fleet of delivery trucks’ miles-per-gallon and idle time. Recycling? That’s a gimme. They also have numerous solar energy pilot programs. And you had better bet that any suppliers they work with must also have sustainable business practices in place.

  1. Numerous Acquisitions Expand Essendant’s Capabilities

Essendant actually only became the company it is in 2015 – though it’s been around since 1920. In the past decade, it has acquired companies like G2S, MEDCO, CPO Commerce, OKI Supply, MBS Dev, ORS Nasco, Sweet Paper, and others.

…Who’s next?

These acquisitions have all expanded Essendant’s ability to supply the best products at great prices.

Yeah, Essendant rocks. So if we recommend them to you, you should absolutely notice yourself jumping for joy inside.

You can bet they’ll only add to your profitability.