Retail Apocalypse Continues – But Why?

Business Insider notes more than 3,800 retail stores will close this year. Fox Business adds that this is happening among 22 leading retailers.

And I’m sure you’ve heard about Toys R Us closing all its stores. Even the biggest of dogs, like Walgreens and Walmart are shutting down considerable numbers of stores.

At first, this sounds frightening. If giants fall, doesn’t it seem like anyone could be taken down by Amazon?

But one article at Forbes claims this problem could have been avoided.

Why?

Because retailers haven’t adapted to meet consumer needs.

Large retail stores were born out of the necessity that consumers had a lack of access. With no other options, the market worked such that consumers had to go to large retail stores to find exactly what they wanted.

…And that means prices and margins remained high too.

But, The Market’s Changed

Today, Millennials and Generation Z want locally sourced products, made by workers treated ethically everywhere in the supply chain, which are also environmentally friendly, and provide a unique experience.

Yes, that’s harder to do.

But retailers can do it (as shown by Amazon).

The main problem, the article argues, is that traditional retailers have a completely opposite culture from technology companies. Amazon does not think of itself as a retailer, but as a tech company who happens to be in retail.

Tech companies, for example, buildbig and fast and learn as they go. They’re unafraid to make mistakes and quickly adapt to market demand and changes.

Traditional retailers, however, want to avoid mistakes. They can’t adapt to market changes fast. And they want to rely on their traditional approach that they know what works best.

We’re not saying either approach is better.

…But are you starting to understand why even large retailers find themselves struggling versus Amazon?

If you can’t rapidly react to market changes, while another company is built to do just that, there’s a massive competitive advantage you can’t beat.

So, What Do You Do?

Walmart bought a weapon: Jet.com. They believe that by creating an emotional connection online (discovered through extensive testing), and by targeting a market segment that does not typically buy from Walmart (urban Millennials), they can somehow compete with Amazon.

You may not be able to create a multi-billion dollar operation like Jet.com. But, you can certainly work on integrating your online and offline shopping experiences to meet the needs of new market segments.

Companies who take risks will adapt and thrive. And hopefully you can find ways to do so going forward.

How to Negotiate the Best Deals with Your Suppliers

In business, everything’s negotiable.

If you don’t have a deal in place right now, then you simply haven’t discovered the best solution for both parties.

When was the last time you revisited your existing purchasing practices with your wholesale suppliers?

If it’s been a while, here’s some items to consider to help you negotiate a better working relationship with your supplier:

1. Your Leverage is Your Purchasing Volume

How many units can you realistically sell over a given time period? Have you identified new ways to increase your own sales? How can you use those projections to negotiate better deals with your suppliers?

The point isn’t to trap and coerce a better deal out of your partner. You want to have something you can give them. And understanding your own sales data and forecasts is the starting point for all negotiations.

2. Look for Alternative Solutions If Prices Aren’t Negotiable

Always focus on extending terms, which improves your cash flow. Or, see if you can get faster shipping.

Maybe you can negotiate better return terms. Or maybe you can get a discount if you pay your invoice early.

Creative, original thinking, that’s fair and a win-win for both parties leads to successful deals.

3. Have Multiple Suppliers in Place

If you want to play hardball, you can talk to several suppliers at once. Just make sure that whatever offer you get from each, you get it in writing so you can show it to other suppliers.

Then, let the negotiating fun begin.

4. Make Yourself The Ideal Long-Term Customer (And Mean It)

Always be nice and friendly. Have a willingness to compromise. Because, you need your supplier just as much as they need you.

And if you become too emotionally taxing to justify the effort of working with you, your supplier might simply choose to stop doing business with you.

So think of what you like about your favorite customers, and always exemplify those characteristics to the best of your ability.

5. Add More Value to Your Supplier

You are your supplier’s gateway to new markets and more sales. What access do you have that they already don’t?

You can also work to reduce your supplier’s risks by signing a multiyear contract and agreeing to a purchase volume that works for you.

Negotiations can add quite a bit of profit to your margins and net profit. And if you’re a creative, open-minded thinker, you can make your bottom line much healthier.

North Texas Food Bank Names The Pollock Campus

July 6, 2018, Dallas, Texas

On Saturday, June 30, 2018, the North Texas Food Bank unveiled the new name of their Cockrell Hill location in Dallas, Texas, as “The Pollock Campus”. This location is being repurposed as a HUB for smaller non-profit organizations to give to hungry families in the North Texas area.

Pollock has been a proud supporter of the North Texas Food Bank for 3 years and is also a sponsor of Empty Bowls, Taste of the Cowboys and Harvest. Pollock holds a service day once a year at the food bank where associates donate volunteer time to help sort and pack food boxes. This year, Pollock associates packed 7 pallets, which equates to 8,400 pounds and 7,000 meals for the community. “We are dedicated to giving back to the communities that we operate in. Through PollockCares, we strive to make a significant impact on the lives of people in need,” explains Lonnie Pollock, III, Chief Executive Officer at Pollock.

In honor of Pollock’s 100th year in business, Pollock and the Pollock Foundation made a $600,000 donation to the North Texas Food Bank’s Stop Hunger, Build Hope capital campaign. Other various fundraisers were held at the Pollock DFW branch throughout the year by its associates, and together they raised over $10,000 for the food bank.

      

The North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) is a top-ranked nonprofit relief organization, providing access to more than 190,000 meals each day for hungry children, seniors and families across a 13-county service area. The need for hunger relief in North Texas is huge; to combat increasing food insecurity, the Food Bank recently launched a 10-year plan to provide access to 92 million nutritious meals annually by 2025. NTFB is a member of Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization.

3 Ways Carefully Tracking Your Cleaning Supply Inventory Saves You Time and Money

A recent survey by Facility Cleaning Decision found the average respondent bought $250,000 in cleaning supplies each year…to clean approximately 1.2 million square feet.

In any business, the larger your numbers get, the more mistakes you make. At least, until you take the time to analyze and optimize your processes for efficiency, anyway.

It’s easy to get complacent with the way you do things. And after all, it takes a fair amount of time to inventory your product.

However, keeping an organized and efficiently-managed inventory on hand leads to benefits like these:

1. Happier Customers

How do you keep your customers (whether internal or external) happier than they could ever be with the competition?

You know what the competition does. And then you top it.

…But you can only do that by keeping close tabs on your inventory.

Do you have the top-performing products that deliver the results your customers want? Do you always have the supplies you need in stock so you can do the work your customers want in the time frame promised?

Do you spend within your budget when purchasing supplies so you don’t have to cut corners elsewhere?

2. Reduce Inventory Costs

Let’s say you’re around that quarter-million dollar budget with your cleaning supply inventory.

Do you buy in bulk so you can negotiate reduced prices? Do you know what you already have in inventory so you don’t buy product that sits around for a year or longer?

Will you find inventory you completely forget about…only to never use it?

3. You Can Catch Inventory Management Inefficiencies Faster

Let’s say you use software to track your cleaning supply inventory. Say you use a high-priced cleaning solution to maintain a large floor that must be kept in top shape year-round.

You analyze your inventory data. And you find that you must reorder this expensive cleaning solution twice as often as you thought.

Typically, you might shrug your shoulders and assume that’s just the way it is because the floor is so large.

But thanks to your software, you can see that one particular employee keeps using a lot of this cleaning solution.

So you talk to them about how they’re doing the work. And, you find out they use a lot more of that solution than necessary because they didn’t understand how to properly mix it.

As a result, you save thousands of dollars a year by simply helping your employee understand the correct way to mix the solution, rather than just letting the problem persist.

As you can see, if you run a significant budget of cleaning products, it makes good sense to track your inventory carefully. The challenge simply lies in creating a system that works for you.

What Makes Fineline Settings So Different from Other Tableware Manufacturers?

Departing slightly from the standard product offering, Fineline Settings goes a step up from functional plastics and tableware to focusing on beauty and quality also.

Other similar manufacturers typically focus on just the basics. Because, that’s all your company typically needs. You simply need cups that hold water without leaking – and that are produced in a sustainable way.

While that makes sense in most situations, Fineline takes plastic tableware to new heights so you can elicit a specific feeling of appreciation for the finer things in life. That’s perfectly okay and appropriate for the right occasion.

So take a look at a few of their product lines to get a better idea of what we mean:

1. Silver Splendor

This product line includes both utensils and plates and dishes. For example, you can get square dinner and dessert plates (sized slightly smaller) with gold bands, blue and gold bands, or silver bands.

Plates and bowls can also be round and come in black, a color that signifies luxury.

Combine this with gold-colored utensils (available in other product lines), and you can easily see how you can take the feel for your event up a notch.

2. Flairware

With a name like this, you’re already getting excited because you know you’ll find something fancy.

The stemware line includes champagne flutes, wine goblets, and old-fashioned champagne glasses (shaped much like martini glasses). Margarita glasses and special dessert cups are also available.

If you need to put on a certain air at your event, Fineline’s Flairware certainly makes it possible.

3. Golden Secrets

The golden utensils that come in this product line do exactly as you expect. Spoons, forks, knives, and cake cutters are available.

Skyrocket the luxurious feel for your event – without breaking your budget at the same time!

So do you see the different direction Fineline’s coming from? They want to help you make a lasting impression.

…And they certainly do!

So that’s why we’re happy to recommend them when they make sense for your needs.

3 Opportunities for Greater Picking, Packing, & Shipping Efficiency

For most smaller companies, the pick, pack, and ship process represents the greatest time consumed – and largest inefficiency.

That’s not bad. It simply means you have ample opportunity to improve your operating efficiency so you can divert more time and money toward other business investments.

In your pick, pack, and ship process, these are the areas to audit and analyze to win big efficiency gains:

1. Implement an Order Management Software System

Your software should help your employees pick the entire order in a single pass, eliminating the need to check and recheck an aisle multiple times. You should also be able to pick multiple orders simultaneously.

That means your software works with wireless devices to map routes so it understands where you keep your inventory. And all the data related to the pick should be kept digitally on a handheld device (not on printed paper).

2. Optimize Inventory Locations

Which of your products sell the fastest right now? Do you have seasonal items coming up soon?

Your fastest-selling inventory should be located nearest your packing stations. And if you have multiple products that frequently get bought together, they should be located near one another also.

You might also consider creating kits, which means you simply pre-pack the items together so they’re ready to ship when ordered.

3. Audit Picking Paths and Minimize Touches

In an ideal world, your order only gets touched once during the pick, pack, and ship process. That means no errors. And it means packing the order correctly the first time.

You shouldn’t have to repack the item into different size containers. Think of that as “rework.”

Make sure you include regular audits of your pick, pack, and ship paths and the number of touches. It’s easy to become inefficient, especially during times of rapid growth.

Understand This Isn’t Simple!

The pick, pack, and ship process is complex. It’s not easy to fix it in just a few days. And the more employees, products, and orders you get, the harder it is to optimize – and keep it efficient.

So the sooner you analyze and optimize your processes, the better. And the more regular you make your optimization, the better.

Make it a priority – and watch the efficiency of your company increase in response.

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.