Recent news of coronavirus vaccine trial success has sparked a new sense of hope recently, but we shouldn’t expect things to snap back to “normal” any time soon. With the potential for a public vaccine roll-out still a ways away, and infection rates continuing to climb across the country, we can anticipate that many of our current challenges will extend well into next year. That includes: supply chain and delivery disruptions, in-store safety protocols and, for some consumers, financial insecurity. As we head towards the end of 2020, now is the time to really step back and take a closer look at these past eight months. What has worked? What hasn’t? And that includes your manufacturing partnerships as well. Have your current partners helped you weather the difficulties—or simply created more headaches? Using this moment to reevaluate your strategies and partnerships will be key if you want to hit the ground running in 2021.
Rethinking Your Showroom Set-Up
Is your store in need of a refresh? Maybe it’s time to reimagine your temporary pandemic precaution solutions as more permanent features. Or maybe you’re just looking to shake up a stale environment. As you start to imagine the possibilities of your showroom space, don’t limit yourself. Are you stuck with this number of beds forever—or will nixing a few slots open up more creative merchandising opportunities?
With anxiety around the pandemic remaining high, retailers must strike the right balance when it comes to their physical showrooms. It needs to be exciting enough to compel people to come shop—but safe enough to reassure more nervous customers. Toeing that line will be key as we move into the new year. As you’re thinking about the changes you want to make to your showroom, consider how your current partnerships can support you in doing so. Do you have a manufacturing partner who can consult on your set up?
Reevaluating Your Brand Mix
The process of reimagining the look and feel of your showroom floor is also a good time to think critically about your mix of brands. Which lines are your customers responding to? Which ones are providing you with the most bang for your buck in terms of sales and margins?
It’s not enough to just catch a customer’s eye right now. You also have to be able to deliver on your promises—which is especially difficult amidst production and shipping delays. Remember: the consumer is buying from your store, which means it’s your name on the line when something goes wrong.
Margin is still important, of course, as are branding assets and innovative product features—but the ability to provide reliable service and fulfillment may be what makes or breaks your bottom line right now.
Supply chain disruptions have had a big impact on available stock. Many companies are still trying to play catch-up from delays that started back in the spring—which were only compounded by the increased consumer demand for bedding and mattresses.
Some savvy brands have been able to avoid delays, thanks to strong relationships with suppliers and the ability to swap out certain materials for similar ones that are more readily available. Flexibility has been paramount—and is a vital attribute when evaluating your partnerships. Simply put: who has product that is ready to go?
Reliability Of Service
Even the companies that are well-stocked have been grappling with slower delivery and fulfillment times. The uptick in ecommerce shopping and issues with the USPS have put greater pressure on many delivery services, slowing things down across the board.
While it would be unrealistic to expect manufacturers can fully evade such delays, it is reasonable to expect that things will show up where and when they say they will. How long does it take for them to drop-ship direct to the consumer? If they’re shipping to you as a retailer, do they have minimum order limits?
There’s no way to totally safeguard against every potential hiccup, but having a clear picture of a partner’s plans and processes can help instill a sense of confidence—which makes it easier to plan ahead.
There’s no question that many manufacturers are struggling with deliverables right now—it’s true across the board, regardless of the industry or product category. Consumers understand that; they’re seeing it in other stores and their own businesses. But just because people are expecting delays, that doesn’t mean we should get cavalier about their understanding. Communication is still key. Are you able to have a realistic conversation with the company about what they can deliver?
When your manufacturing partners are upfront about what is going to be available and when, you can pass that information on to your customers. And many consumers will be much more willing to wait a little longer for their order if they’re given advance notice.
In difficult times, it’s our relationships that get us through. That is as true interpersonally as it is in the business world. In order for a partnership to work, it’s important for both parties to be clear about their expectations and honest about their limitations. This allows you to work together more effectively, tackling issues as they arise and creating new solutions for the future.