The “Are Things Getting Better” Blog
It’s been 10 months since my last official blog. Last November I blogged about the supply chain madness, and how it’s causing inflation and empty shelves. Well guess what, I could have written the same blog today. Unless you live in a cave, fish/hunt for your meals, and get your entertainment playing word games or crossword puzzles – you could write a similar blog based on your experiences. But since people know I own a business that relies on imported products, I often get asked, “Are things getting better?”. And I know the answer they want to hear…
A Wee Bit Better
Truth is that things are not much different than last year. A tiny bit better is what I’d say here in America. Container rates have come down from the 2021 peak prices. Lead times have been reduced, maybe by a few weeks. But compared to what we experienced pre-pandemic, things are still insane, and I don’t use that word lightly. Here is one example of the insanity (and the country is full of stories like this). Our retail customers expect their opening fall inventory at the end of August or early September. So, to be safe, we order our product in January as it now takes a few months to manufacture to our specs and branding. In this case, we had a full 40-foot high-cube container filled with our bestselling knit caps loaded and ready to sail at the end of May. The boat sailed with our container (and about 20,000 other containers) from Asia across the ocean to Long Beach, CA on June 7th. Our container was offloaded from the boat in Long Beach on July 18th waiting to rail to Chicago (where it gets trucked to our distribution center in Michigan). So, we are thinking no problem. We’ll have the goods in a couple of weeks. Wrong. The infrastructure to support all the imports here in America is not sufficient. Here is the rest of the story. Our container sat in Long Beach and took 4 weeks to get on a train. We were asked to spend an additional $10,000 to put it at the head of the line. But we had time, why spend that money, and increase our cost of goods? Had we known it would have taken 4 weeks to get on the rail we might have made a different decision. On August 14th the train rolled into Texas on its way to Chicago. There we were informed that the train had “mechanical difficulties”. Our container sat in Texas for another 10 days waiting for the train repair. The train finally arrived in Chicago on August 26th. Let me remind you that Chicago is 5 hours drive from our DC. The final act of this comedy is that the trucker who was hired experienced two flat tires (if you believe) and the container of hats finally arrived in Auburn Hills on August 30th. That is 12 weeks of transit time - 6 weeks of sailing time and 6 weeks inland to get from California to Michigan - so you tell me if things are getting better…
I’d say more than anything else, as a country we are getting used to these stock outs, ridiculous costs, and transit times. I’ve said it a million times, we run our business dealing in facts. The role of our sales team has never been more critical. The days of transactional selling are over. Thankfully our team understands consultative selling. We only win when our customers win, which means getting them what they need, when they need it. What used to be doesn’t matter anymore. Here is a short list of what our customers are experiencing: Prices are up, lead times are longer, e-commerce competition is fierce (Amazon delivery vehicles are everywhere), consumer confidence is low, and everyone is worried about the next recession. How’s that for the arena we do business in?
Profitable In A Recession
I recently took a class called “Good Salespeople Make Money In A Recession” and it’s true. The same can be said for well run companies. Now I’m not saying we are in a recession. But a lot of people are talking about it. So, we best prepare for it. Kara Lawson, the women’s basketball coach at Duke University has a video that is trending on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. It’s about life not getting easier and you need to learn to handle hard better. What a message! We’ve played that video here a bunch. I don’t know all the answers. But I know some of them. If you want to handle hard better, you better look in the mirror first. It’s not rocket science. What do you need to learn more of, what do you need to spend more time on and what do you need to spend less time on. Start there and I think you’ll have a good recipe for success.
Way More Good Than Bad
Lastly, I don’t want the last four paragraphs in this blog to mislead you. There is way more good going on in our business than bad. We are supporting our customers, and in return, they are supporting us. That container I referenced earlier with the knit caps; Cheryl Shearer and her team would have come in at midnight on a Saturday to unload it, receive it, and process the orders. (As it was, we received it on a Tuesday and Wednesday we had all the requested orders packed and ready to go!) In June at the annual AD Safety Network meeting, Broner Glove & Safety was awarded distributor Member of The Year based on our growth (How about that!!). Though we were disappointed to see Emily leave our company, we are thrilled that Abigail Robinson has joined us! Same goes for Brooke leaving and Zachary Paris joining. You know the only constant in business - is change.
I’ll close the blog with this little tidbit. Recently our phones started buzzing with people asking if they could buy the Steve Martin hat worn on “Only Murders In The Building”, the hit comedy on Hulu. We had a hunch the character Charles-Haden Savage was wearing Broner, but we couldn’t confirm until we read the piece in Vulture.com about the fashion worn in the show. Yes, Steve Martin references Broner as one of his favorite hat brands! So, him and I have that in common…