Home Alone 4!


My fiancée is out of town visiting her family for four days. It was billed as an “aunt’s weekend," so Uncle Mark was left home!


With her gone and with my daughter still in Barcelona “studying” abroad, I find myself “in-charge” of the house for four days. I love all the power! Immediately before taking a nap on the couch, I changed a few rules of the house! For the next four days, the closet doors will ALL be left open, the toilet seats will be left up and bodily sounds are funny again!


When Guy (that’s my fiancée) comes back of course, she will find the house exactly as she left it (I’m no dummy)! As she left it, with one small caveat: I am no longer going to squeegee the glass shower doors after I shower!


AFTER we moved into our new house two months ago, I was told that the glass shower doors needed to be squeegeed dry after EACH AND EVERY shower! “Jeeeez, you are REALLY demanding,” I said to myself! Right before going to the hardware store to buy a squeegee.


I wish she had told me all this before we signed the lease! I would have insisted on a house with shower curtains!


It turns out though that squeegeeing the shower doors is totally unnecessary! I am now three showers into my “no-squeegee” experiment and my findings cannot be disputed: squeegeeing the shower doors provides no additional aesthetic improvements from the evaporation method.


I plan on making my case when my fiancée returns. I am NOT going back to standing there cold and wet after a shower, drying doors which Mother Nature has a perfectly good method for drying!


After I tell her all that, maybe I’ll at least get us a bigger squeegee so I can do it faster?


I have been working with a dealer recently on a project to reduce the number of manufacturers he deals with. He’s got a nice business but buys paint from too many vendors and as a result makes none of them happy.


And you do need your vendors to be happy with you.


The story of the dealer with too many lines should be a cautionary tale for you! More is not necessarily better. It’s tempting to think that the more brands you have the more “pull” you’ll have in the market, but that’s not always true. The only time that may be true, is if you add a brand that pulls in customers on their own! Otherwise, you are just spreading out your own existing sales onto more vendors, and making all of them a little less satisfied with you as a customer.


And YES! You should always keep in mind how you are doing as a customer. Vendors look at each store as an opportunity to develop a market. They have a sense of what a store should be doing and if you are no where near those numbers, you put yourself at risk with that vendor in the worst case and in the best case, you won’t get support if they don’t think you’re being supportive.


Still, I am an advocate of having multiple sources for goods that you buy in significant quantity. If I buy all my brushes (for example) from one vendor, what is their incentive to help me grow my profitability? Since they know a major vendor change is a pain, they feel overly confident and won’t do their best for you. BUT if I spread some of my brush business around, I should find BOTH vendors more hungry to grow their volume with me.


I like my vendors hungry.


For items that I buy a lot of, I always have multiple vendors: I am sure that I can be very frustrating for reps!


While keeping vendors hungry is a good goal, it’s not the only reason I employ this purchasing strategy. I’m also looking to protect myself. One day, something could change with a vendor and I could find myself on the outside looking in! I want to protect myself from that possibility by diversifying my buying options.


I don’t want to make this all too complicated for myself, and I remember the tale of the dealer with too many lines, so I put a lot of thought into this. We (all) have items, what us old-timers used to call “white goods,” that are not vendor specific. For the most part, any primer, any ceiling white, (in the Bronx) any white semi-gloss will all do the job for my “unspecified” purchasers. These are items I can easily buy from any number of places and I get protection for spreading it around. I look for “stand-alone” type products that I can sell without breaking up full lines I’m carrying and looking to support.


I can also use that knowledge of what other vendors are doing to benchmark those who want more from me. When a rep tells me he wants to see my volume increase I can say: “I buy $50K a year of this ceiling white. I sell it for $35 and make 48 points on my GPM. Offer me better and we’ll talk.” It’s a lot easier for reps to hit a target if they know what that target is!

Of course, these are general rules and they may not apply to every situation: little I say does! But if you’re giving all to one, make sure you’ve got a good reason for doing that and that you’re being properly rewarded for your loyalty. You’re an INDEPENDENTretailer! YOU make your own rules!


If you spend all your time following other people’s rules, you end up as the guy who’s there just to squeegee the glass dry!



Don't forget to check back next Wednesday for another episode on my podcast: Mark, My Words. I spend the next episode with Kelly Scott of Barrydowne Paint in Ontario. Kelly is doing some really outstanding work to grow her brand: using an online store to support her brick and mortar. A third generation paint dealer, Kelly shares her secrets to online success (pssst....it can work for any store)!