Suppliers are something that everyone in the award business has and many
dealers take for granted. Good suppliers are a dealers lifeline,
especially today when you need to receive your order yesterday, ideally
without a hitch.
lot of retailers dont really think much about their relationship
with suppliers and, consequently, they may not be making the most of what
that relationship has to offer. Good supplier relationships often mean
getting the best goods quickly and with minimal problems, not to mention
favorable pricing and customer support above and beyond the strict
call of duty.
this article we will take a fresh look at suppliers, how they operate,
what they offer and how to develop a good supplier/dealer relationship.
A Closer Look
simplify things, we are going to classify award suppliers into four different
categories (but please keep in mind that some companies can fall into
more than one category). These categories are: Manufacturers Direct
Sellers, Manufacturers through Distributors, Distributors/Resellers
and Specialty/Niche Businesses. The following is a brief definition of
Manufacturers Direct Sellers
Direct Sellers loosely means that the company manufacturers
their own products and sells that product to retail dealers.
Manufacturers through Distributors
through Distributors means that the company manufactures
various products to supply to wholesale distributors for resale to retail
dealers. This type of company often does little or no selling direct to
are the companies that purchase their products from the manufacturers
and, in turn, sell wholesale to retail dealers.
Specialty/Niche category is for companies that specialize
in selling one type of award or recognition product. For example, this
type of company may specialize in medals, ground breaking shovels, gavels
or frames. Keep in mind that these Specialty/Niche companies can fall
into any of the above categories, but we decided to give them their own
section for this article.
definitions are given to help clarify the different suppliers mentioned
in this article. As each new supplier is introduced, the category that
they fall into will also be stated.
The Information You Want to Know
talked to quite a few award and trophy suppliers and gave them bragging
rights to answer the question, What brings customers to you and
keeps them coming back? Here are some of their answers.
merchandise refers to the higher end, usually more expensive, awards.
R.S. Owens & Company (Manufacturer Direct Seller), Chicago,
IL, is well known for their upscale awards. They are best known for some
of the famous awards they make such as the Oscar and the Emmy, and awards
for other high profile events such as U.S. Open and The Academy of Country
Music Awards. Larry Maloney of R.S. Owens says, The R.S. Owens Co.
has long been known as a supplier of upscale, top-of-the-line products.
We offer everything from Art As Awards, to combination crystal/cast pieces,
combining crystal with satin nickel.
Mfg. Co. Inc. (Manufacturers Direct Sellers), Florham Park, NJ,
is best known for their quality corporate and organizational awards with
a flair for innovative high-fashion designs. According to Tropars
Peter E. Ilaria, Tropar has worked very hard to provide our customers
with the kind of designer products where they can walk into a competitive
situation in the corporate market and come out with the order. The dealers
who introduce their clients to our Airflyte branded merchandise
usually find the customers returning again and requesting our products
Pollan of The Gavel Company (Specialty/Niche), Lincolnwood, IL, says,
The Gavel Company prides itself on its ability to respond to most
any price point, including our exclusive gold, silver, brass and even
copper gavels! Each of these is finely turned and polished to perfection.
Additionally, The Gavel Companys woodworking capabilities allow
it to fashion custom wood cases, stands and bases for virtually any promotion.
The Gavel Companys upscale products also include its patented wooden
coffee tumbler that has been successfully used as a promotional tool by
upscale car makers and coffee houses.
Reputation for Quality
question received a lot of answers from all the suppliers. Obviously all
of them work very hard at maintaining their reputation for quality products.
Maloney of R.S. Owens states, We pride ourselves in always striving
to be better. Better quality products, better quality customer service,
along with a good catalog. Quality improvement is a never ending, ongoing
project for us. We recognize that we must be the best we can be, so our
customers can be the best they can be.
of AT Designs states, We work on the premise that our customers
reputation should be treated as if its our own. Because we work
exclusively through a distributor/wholesaler network, we know our customers
will be judged by the product we deliver to them. We ensure that we maintain
our reputation because we know their reputation depends on it! Quality
is not just in the product either, that is a term that should be applied
throughout an entire organization. Quality in the finished item is not
much good if customer service, customer relations, product design, communication
efforts, delivery and follow-up are not set to the same high standard.
Depth of Inventory
companies pride themselves on their depth of inventory and their ability
to offer their customers just the right product for their needs. JDS Industries
(Distributor/Reseller), Sioux Falls, SD, is no exception. Mike May states,
JDS currently has eight fully-stocked warehouses throughout the
United States. We stock all products found in our catalog in every warehouse.
When stock outages do occur at the customers closest warehouse,
JDS will gladly ship from another warehouse and pay the difference in
freight. We can also do custom products in some product lines.
Capetta of Discount Trophy & Co. Inc., (Distributor/Reseller), South
Windsor, CT replied, Discount Trophy is a wholesale trophy component
distributor with nine domestic distribution centers as well as locations
in both Canada and Puerto Rico. We carry a complete line of products to
meet all of our customers award and recognition needs: figures,
medals, marble, columns, plaques, giftware, hardware and more.
Availability of Custom Products
availability of custom products is another service that some companies
provide. Plastic Dress-Up Company (Manufacturer through Distributors),
South El Monte, CA, is a leading manufacturer of award components. Lori
Aluzzi of Plastic Dress-Up says, PDU offers a custom program in
all product categories we sell which includes resins, columns, mylars
and acrylics. Just provide your artwork to PDU and well turn it
into a custom product.
Awards (Distributor/Reseller), Charlotte, NC, also offers custom services.
Michael Hicks explains, Custom resins are available from Plastic-Plus
Awards in any design you can imagine. Once your sample is approved, you
can have an order of custom resins in 90 days. Custom medals are also
available with minimal set-up and three week lead time. Custom mylars
are also available for larger orders.
Gavel Companys Pollan agrees, We welcome custom work. More
than any other aspect of The Gavel Companys business, its custom
work is the most impressive. As a division of a larger custom wood supplier,
we can respond to most any need for custom wood products. Unique shapes
and components, from wooden eggs to mortars and pestles, no wood product
exceeds The Gavel Companys capabilities. We regularly provide display
parts, pyramids and custom office products to customer specifications.
The Gavel Company will provide custom products in any design, any wood
species and in any quantity.
Convenient One-Stop Shopping
most business people, time is of the essence and convenience is important.
Depth of inventory and convenient one-stop shopping really go hand-in-hand,
so it is no surprise that companies strive to be a one-stop shopping source
for their customers. Plastic-Plus offers over 6,500 different products
to service the sports and corporate award markets. A vast selection of
products for trophies, plaques, medals, acrylics, badges, full color personalization
and gifts are in stock.
Frequent New Product Introductions
answered Maloney of R.S. Owens when asked how often new products are introduced.
We pride ourselves on an aggressive and creative new product development
program. Our dealers are always looking for something new and different
to present to their customers. Our new product development process is
ongoing, and over the past two years we have introduced hundreds of new
awards and gifts with each new catalog release.
The Gavel Company introduces new products at the beginning of each year.
However, it is not unusual for the company to add a product to its line
in midyear to get customer feedback and tweak it as needed before it is
added to The Gavel Companys catalog.
states, Our emphasis on highly-styled products has caused us to
do multiple product launches every year. Tropar has three major product
unveilings per year. Our new line begins with plaques that are marketed
to dealers in the fall and winter. The second product cycle is generally
clocks, acrylics and gifts in the late winter and early spring. These
two product offerings will cover all new products added to the catalog.
We try to place them in the dealers showrooms prior to the busy
season (Easter through Memorial Day). The last new product offering
is generally a few new clock and gift items in the summer, ahead of the
year-end corporate gift buying season.
companies introduce new products at major trade shows or in conjunction
with a new catalog release. We leave them outside the plant doors
hoping that someone might pick them up! jokes DAndrade of
AT Designs. Actually, we normally feature the newest items at each
of the more than 100 trade shows we do annually. In addition, they are
displayed in our magazine ads, on our website and are frequently introduced
in our telemarketer campaigns.
May of JDS states, The majority of new products are introduced during
the first quarter of each year to coincide with the International Awards
Market in Las Vegas and the introduction of the components catalog for
the year. Some products are also introduced in the fall of the year. JDS
introduced 500 new products in 2003 alone.
turnaround, or the time it takes to receive your shipment after you place
an order, is one of the most important services a company can offer. Because
it is so important, nearly all companies provide quick shipping for their
customers. May says, JDS strives to ship any order placed by 3 p.m.
the same day during much of the year. Orders placed as late as 5 p.m.
can be shipped the same day. With our computer system, orders are printed
in the warehouse as soon as the customer is done speaking with the JDS
customer service rep.
Singer, Classic Medallics, Inc. (Manufacturer through Distributors),
Long Island City, NY, says, All component parts are shipped within
24 hours with most orders going out the same day. Assembled merchandise
is shipped within 24 to 48 hours. Any product can be personalized within
48 to 72 hours.
Reasonable Minimum Orders
you are in a crunch for time and are missing just a few components to
finish a particular order. Many companies realize this may be the case
and try to accommodate their customers as best as they can.
Awards has never had a minimum order requirement. JDS Industries has a
$15.00 minimum order policy; however, they are flexible with that policy
because they understand that unusual circumstances do happen.
keep in mind that many companies policies will vary on this service
so be sure to ask before you order.
Knowledgeable & Helpful Sales/Customer Service
to this question were also very abundant. Obviously, customer service
is important and the companies we interviewed definitely want to let customers
know that when youll call, you will be treated well by their knowledgeable
staff. Here are some of their replies:
what we feel brings customers back to us is the Golden Rule say
Nic Engle of Tower Ribbons & Awards (Distributor/Reseller), Topeka,
IN. We work very hard at making the buying experience as pain free
and simple as possible. The customer should be treated with respect, honesty
and courtesy, the way we would expect to be treated. We have received
uncountable acknowledgements of praise for our friendly customer service
staff. They are helpful, reliable and can work our new customers through
the ribbon buying process.
Trophy & Co., Inc., South Windsor, CT, carries a complete line
of products to meet all of their customers awards and recognition
needs including the new Prism Optical Crystal awards shown here.
of Classic Medallics replied, We receive 80% of our orders by phone
and 20% by fax or E-mail. We accomplish this with 10 highly trained customer
service people who average over 15 years experience in the award and gift
industry. Most of all, they enjoy working with our customers to fill their
orders and solve their problems.
of R.S. Owens states, Our sales and customer service people are
constantly undergoing continuous training. They are taught about special
processes we do in the factory, what process works best on what product
and how to handle customers in the most professional manner. We feel we
have the best customer service people in the industry. We recently implemented
ongoing weekly training with our reps to review policies, imprinting procedures
and other information to make sure each rep is well informed to quickly
and accurately respond to customer questions. The first line of communication
with our customers is our customer service people.
Industries is known for the friendly and knowledgeable customer service
staff we have, explains May. He continues, Our customer service
reps receive continuous training and education so they are well equipped
to provide the best service possible to the award dealer. JDS also has
a strong team of outside sales reps who visit dealers in their stores.
These reps offer decades worth of industry knowledge to JDS customers.
Ilaria adds, We have one of the few direct sales forces left in
the industry. We have seven full time field salespeople who cover most
states east of the Mississippi. We also have four telemarketing reps that
generally cover the western U.S. In addition, each of our warehouses has
a customer service department.
Availability of Special Help
help and beneficial pricing programs can draw a potential customer to
one company versus another. Award suppliers realize this and offer varying
incentives. JDS Industries offers a very beneficial program for dealers
called the Advantage Pricing Program. JDS and other companies offer free
freight on orders totaling a preset amount or more. Special pricing on
unusually large orders may also be given.
has a special projects department to work on large programs, states
Maloney. This is staffed with highly trained senior and knowledgeable
people who can assist our customers with difficult and/or major orders.
Our regional sales managers also get involved with large projects and
work hand-in-hand with the special projects department and also talk directly
with the customer offering whatever assistance is needed. We are very
fortunate at R.S. Owens that we are large enough to handle any size order
and small enough that our upper echelon can get personally involved whenever
of AT Designs adds, As a custom manufacturer we work with our larger
wholesalers on an ongoing basis to develop and maintain a program that
suits their area of expertise or specialization. As a manufacturer servicing
so many industries, (awards and recognition, ad specialty, gift and souvenir,
golf and jewelry), we bring an incredible amount of varied expertise to
the table. With regard to big orders, we have two full production facilities
that can churn out the products from two separate facilities, if the need
support can include, but is not limited to, dealer usable catalogs, sample
kits, swatches, marketing aides, sample development, a dealer locator
on the suppliers web site, on-line ordering and add-on personalization
is one company that seems to cover all the bases. JDS offers two catalogs
for use by the dealer. One catalog focuses on sports awards and the other
is for selling to the corporate market. JDS also designed their components
catalog with a separate price list so the dealer can show any product
to the customer. Sample kits are available from JDS on several products
so the dealer can create a display in their showroom at a discounted price.
They offer beautiful walnut display cases for each of their four medal
has also created a very useful web site to help dealers advertise the
products they can create for their customers. There are hundreds of completed
products on the web site. Dealers can either link their own site to it
or they can send their customers directly to it. JDS offers samples of
products to dealers on a request basis. The company also sends a sample
pack including a selection of their new items to the dealers on the Advantage
Pricing Program each year.
Designs is also proud of their companys dealer support. This
is another area of strength for our company, states DAndrade.
Benefits include a full-color retail priced catalog to assist the
dealer in establishing asking price in their customers minds, separate
net price sheets for the dealers confidential reference, a free
personalized website showing our whole line using the dealers logo
and corporate information only, sample boards for demonstrations and dealer
showrooms and free random samples of all products. Theres no better
way to demonstrate quality and feel.
of Tropar agrees on the importance of a quality catalog. We offer
our catalog in generic form to dealers. The dealer can then
either imprint the catalog or affix a label to the cover containing the
dealers contact information. All prices within the catalog are list
prices, where as the dealer can order Tropars entire line at wholesale
prices. The dealer gives or mails our catalog to customers and prospects.
The true value of selling Tropars product is the professional look
of our catalog it appeals to and attracts corporate recognition
buyers. We also offer dealers a protected web site that they can link
to as an extension of our catalog via the internet. The protected site
does not identify Tropar, nor does it have any of the contact functionality
that is found on our home page.
Chrome Shovel (Specialty/Niche), Northville, MI, specializes in chrome
and gold plated shovels for ground breaking ceremonies. The purpose of
their web site is to display an organized list of American Chrome Shovel
dealers across the United States. You are able to search through the dealer
listings and find the dealer location closest to you. After you find a
dealer location, print the order form available on the web site and send
it to your dealers address. American Chrome Shovel also offers add-on
personalization services. A favorite option is to include an engraved
plate on each shovel to commemorate the event.
What Dealers Need to Do
now we have learned what a number of suppliers offer and what they are
willing to do to get you as a customer and to keep you coming back to
them, but there are a few things that you, as a customer, need to do to
maintain the best dealer/supplier relationship.
and foremost is deciding who will be your key suppliers. Of
course you will have more then one key supplier you may have one
or two suppliers of trophies and components, one for ribbons, one or two
for corporate awards, etc. The number of key suppliers that you have will
depend on the size of your business and the amount of sales you generate.
However, its important to deal with a manageable number of regular
suppliers, as opposed to buying from everyone and anyone, or only from
the low bidder. Suppliers know who their good customers are and theyll
jump through hoops to service good and loyal customers. Other advantages
to maintaining a relationship with key suppliers is receiving the best
pricing and more help when you need it.
actions to consider include checking and double checking your orders to
make sure that they are correct and complete. Sometimes it is a good idea
to submit your order in writing either by fax, email or web site. Not
only does this prevent botched orders, it helps your supplier to do his
or her job more effectively.
and submit quality artwork on custom orders. By this, we mean that if
artwork such as camera ready art or photographs are needed for a custom
order, find out the requirements from the company that you are submitting
the artwork to. Can it be digital? What format and dpi should the electronic
file be saved as, and so on?
ways to maintain a good relationship is to pay suppliers on time. Money
talks and every supplier we spoke to will go that extra mile to satisfy
their loyal and prompt-paying accounts. Likewise, do not abuse supplier
services such as a no minimum order policy and 800
are some comments from the suppliers as to what they think are the most
important things that you as a customer can do to keep a good dealer/supplier
Gerald Singer, Classic Medallics
us informed of any problems that might arise with our quality and service.
It is imperative that the customer and supplier continually communicate
with one another concerning quality or service issues that could affect
the long term relationship. We pride ourselves on a quick response time
in addressing problems.
Larry Maloney, R.S. Owens
always helps is to get as much information for our orders as soon as possible.
The more detailed and complete the information on the order we receive,
the easier it is for us to process and expedite that order. Let us know
when we are doing something wrong. We love to correct ourselves. And let
us know when we are doing something right. We love positive feedback.
Let us know what you would like us to supply. New ideas, new concepts,
new designs, we want to know what our customers want.
Bob DAndrade, AT Designs
realistic on what can be done for some of the panic schedules
they operate on. In todays marketplace the better and faster we
receive the order, artwork, approvals, confirmation, the faster the product
gets to production and eventually to the customer. This gives everyone
more chance to hit tight schedules. Develop product knowledge in areas
of focus, no matter what the product.
Mike May, JDS Industries
feels that the key to a successful relationship with the dealer is communication.
We believe in keeping the customers well informed about our products and
services. In return, we appreciate dealers who practice good communication
with us, whether they are requesting that we add an item to our product
line, voicing a complaint or offering praise to our staff members. We
also appreciate complete information on fax orders and on telephone orders.
All of these things help us be the best supplier we can possibly be.
Peter E. Ilaria, Tropar Mfg. Co.
hope that if our catalog or other dealer amenities generated a sale for
the dealer that they would order the product from us and not try to get
a cheaper product elsewhere. We incur higher costs to produce a quality
catalog and web site. We have a full time sales force that visits and
calls stores to promote new products. All of these things that help a
dealer get the sale cost money. Therefore, we are not the least expensive
company to buy from. However, dealers should ask themselves, Would
I have gotten this sale without the highly stylized products and marketing
support that Tropar has provided?
Nic Engle, Tower Ribbons & Awards
sums it all up, As for what makes our customers give us a strong
relationship with them, we tend to find that our best customers are the
ones that remain honest and trustworthy, pay on time and understand that
we try very hard at giving them a quality product at a fair price. Those
dealers who have formed a strong relationship with us and work just as
hard as we do to maintain it, usually are rewarded with special pricing
and other forms of appreciation. They really deserve it.
The Big Picture
are a lot of great award suppliers out there and, of course, we could
only talk to a fraction of them. But as we now see, both the dealer and
the supplier need to work hard at keeping good relationships and the award
industry going strong. Dealers need the suppliers and the suppliers need
the dealers. Hopefully, you now feel that you understand award suppliers
situations a little better and that they understand yours. Please refer
to the sidebar accompanying this article for more great award suppliers.