An older gentleman makes his way into our retail store looking for a new overhead projector to replace the one he purchased from us in 2003. He has already been online but wanted our opinion and expertise. We sell different brands than we did long ago, and sold him a projector for a hundred dollars more than he was going to spend.
He pays in full. A win, right?
When placing the order, we find out our cost is $53 more than the manufacturer’s online retail price. How is this possible? When I ask that exact question to my rep, I’m told that there may (MAY!) be an IR that can be applied to our channel. You know the channel—the ones with human beings on the front lines selling their products? That channel.
It is 24 hours and one email reminder later, and I still have yet to hear if this “rebate” applies to “our channel.”
During moments like these, I am tempted to call the client, tell him I was mistaken with the brand that we recommended, refund his money, and tell him to buy another brand. (Now, of course, I understand that if I went through with these thoughts, I would be out of business. But what a shot in the heart it is to believe in a brand and not be supported by it.)
This high-selling projector brand is not the only one to have such discrepancies, either. Countless times I have seen prices for other products sold on Amazon for less than our dealer cost, and these are current models, not discontinued ones. As a customer, why wouldn’t one get my information from local experts and then purchase online?
Remember back in the early 2000s, when Blockbuster would suggest that you go online to order your movies instead of browsing through the video store? I used to tell the minimum-wage clerk that he was putting the company out of business, but why would he care? Then what happened? We saw Blockbuster massacred by Netflix because of its inability to see the change on the horizon.
Are our manufacturers doing the same thing to their dealers? If video killed the radio star, are these companies murdering the local dealers?
Dear manufacturers…We the small dealers, are the ones that made you who you are today. It has been our blood, sweat, and tears that helped you grow your numbers before the internet existed, and you thank us how? You request our sales and undercut us after every turn. You sell yourself out for the quantity and forget your rise to the top. You’re not only hurting us, but you are undervaluing your products, and burning yourself.
Now, I will give credit where credit is due; not all are raking us over the coals. Some companies have firm set pricing and never advertise below, nor are online retailers able to do so. Some did this too late, but better late than never. Guess which companies I’m pushing?
What can we do? We can buy from the manufacturers that are supporting us, and the more we band together as an industry, the stronger we will be. There is strength in numbers; do not believe that just because you are a sub-million-dollar company that your buying power does not count. Call your buying group if you have one. Call the companies that are selling you out and tell them they will no longer have your business if changes are not made. Go online to CEDIA’s community and spread the word. Who is supporting you, and who is not?
I promise that if we assemble together, we can force the change. Products will be valued, and so will our time. This will only create happier, more knowledgeable clients.
Who’s with me?