OMG. Is he really writing — yet again — about the two most dreaded words in the recent history of the gift and decorative accessories business?
Yes, I’m still on supply chain. Why, you might ask. First off, it’s probably the single most important factor in determining whether your business is going to be successful in 2022. Yes, you need to have the right merchandise, but what good is that if you can’t get it delivered? And yes, you have to have the right people, company culture and organizational structure in order to run a good business — retailer or supplier — but again if the stuff you’re selling doesn’t show up, everything else is moot. Empty shelves, be they in your store, your distribution center or warehouse, are the kiss of death … and no time more critical than in 2022.
Solving the supply chain mess is generally something beyond your pay level. You’re not going down to the port in Long Beach or Savannah — much less in Ningbo — and help unload incoming ships. You can’t construct additional containers and, even if you could, they won’t fit in the back of your SUV to get them to the docks. And you aren’t going to open a factory in the next few weeks to supply your business, now are you?
If there was ever a time to try something new, this is it. Business has been good — very good for some — yet the challenges of doing the same old thing have never been greater.
So, let’s talk about the things you can do, which fall under the general heading of “Supply Chain Bypass.” These are strategies, tactics and moves you can do that will help get you through this year and into 2023 when logistics are likely to be at least somewhat more manageable. In no particular order:
- Think Global, Buy Local: You might be surprised at what’s available from suppliers in your area, or at least made domestically. Some products will always be only available from overseas — anything with a plug, low-end promo goods — but so much more can be found much closer to home. Look.
- Buy Americas, All Americas: When thinking about American made, don’t limit your buying to just the U.S. Canada, the Caribbean, Central America and South America can all be good resources for many products you might be currently buying from Asia that are probably stuck in a port somewhere.
- Buy Early, Buy Often: If you see something, buy something. With supplies still limited, it’s best to place your orders as soon as possible. Many suppliers are offering timed buying programs where goods are automatically ordered — something you should consider. The early retailer gets the good worms.
- Search Out New Resources: We all get stuck in our usual patterns, but now is the time to break out of those same old, same old ways. If you walk by a showroom or booth at a market or show on your way to your usual supplier, stop and check it out. It may not be a fit for your business, but then again it may be.
- Get Out of Your Zone: If there was ever a time to try something new, this is it. Business has been good — very good for some — yet the challenges of doing the same old thing have never been greater. Maybe it’s time to take some chances, still limiting your downside risks but opening up your business to see what else is out there.
As we get further into 2022, it’s becoming increasingly clear that business as usual has gotten quite unusual. Some supply chain bypass may be just what the doctor ordered.