Getting SPECIFIC about GENERAL Merchandise
It seems like almost every day at Kole Imports I am faced with the same deceptively simple question: “What kind of merchandise do you carry?”
This query is posed by new customers, trade show attendees and corporate buyers. It comes up in phone conversations, show room visits and sales calls. It is the fundamental question that inevitably arises from the ambiguity of a business category that seems to encompass everything and nothing at the same time:
Defining this term is an essential ingredient for success in the dollar store and wholesale industries. If your customers don’t know what you are selling, how can they be expected to buy your merchandise? As a marketer, I run into this problem quite often when I am reaching out to new customers.
For example, I recently called a buyer for a convenience store chain with the intention of introducing him to Kole Imports’ merchandise. “What do you sell?” the buyer asked. How does one answer such a broad question in a clear and concise way? I tried the obvious response: “What typesof items are you looking for?” I asked. But this approach led right back to where we started. “I don’t know. That depends on what types of items you carry,” he said. Ay, there’s the rub.
How can a customer create a purchase order if they don’t know what items are available? And how can a merchant explain what is available in a warehouse containing thousands of merchandise categories?
So, what is “General Merchandise?” For those of us who work in the business, that’s a tricky question. Our merchandise can fluctuate day-to-day or even hour-to-hour! The first step to finding an answer is to get specific about your business. What unique services do you provide along with the goods that you sell? Even when dealing in general merchandise, we all perform at a certain level of specialization. We may even have multiple areas of specialization, depending on the customers with whom we typically deal.
Take Kole Imports: We specialize in being Your Profit Source®. We are most commonly known as a source for dollar stores. But sometimes we have to get more specific than that. It pays to consider not only what “General Merchandise” means to your business, but also what it may mean to your clients’ businesses.
If a pharmacy buyer comes to you for merchandise, think about what items their customers are likely to purchase. Pharmacy customers are probably looking for a more specialized version of the merchandise you already carry in your own wholesale warehouse or dollar store. That is why it is so important to have a working knowledge of other industries besides your own. Know the businesses of the clients you are targeting, and be prepared to quickly list several merchandise categories from your stock that are directly applicable to their businesses.
That’s how I approached my convenience store conundrum. The buyer wanted more information, but didn’t know where to start. So I researched his convenience store chain and got an idea of their store layouts, their merchandise, and their typical clientele. By applying this newly gathered information to my current knowledge of Kole Imports, I decided that PromoPallets would be the best place to begin.
PromoPallets are perfect for convenience store chains due to their ease of setup and variety of merchandise. PromoPallets featuring auto accessories, pet supplies, and even health and beauty items appeal to the impulse-buying tendencies that most convenience store shoppers harbor. I did my homework, and in turn, the convenience store buyer was able to see how “General Merchandise” could be applied to his specific store!
Though your business may fall under the broad heading of “General Merchandise Suppliers,” you don’t have to treat your customers in a generic manner. By becoming an expert in industries outside of dollar stores and wholesale markets, you can to adapt your “General Merchandise” business to fit almost any specified need. And if you can do that, you will never again be caught speechless when someone asks:
“What exactly do you sell?”