What Should Your Distributor Do for You

To really find out what a distributor can do for you takes some research.


The role of the locksmith distributor has changed greatly in the last 30-plus years, since I entered the locksmith trade in the late 1960s. Back then, most locksmith distributors were mainly interested in doing local and regional business. When I or a local locksmith would call an order in to...


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The role of the locksmith distributor has changed greatly in the last 30-plus years, since I entered the locksmith trade in the late 1960s. Back then, most locksmith distributors were mainly interested in doing local and regional business. When I or a local locksmith would call an order in to the distributor, the unspoken rule was that it would ship out in a few days or so, maybe by the end of the week. That would give the distributor a few days to process the order and a couple days for the order to ship. In the case of a broken lock, we?d put on a ?temporary? used lock to secure the door until the replacement lock arrived. Then we?d go back out and finish the job.

If a locksmith was lucky enough to be near the distributor?s warehouse, he might be able to pick up his order at the will call counter (again, usually in a day or two). If you really had a rush order, you could possibly pick it up that afternoon or maybe the next morning.

A locksmith?s loyalty to a given distributor was based strictly on price. About the only difference between distributors were their price and maybe the brand of locks they stocked most heavily.

Today we have the luxury of living in a global economy. Distributors in all parts of the country can ship nationwide overnight. A lock in a box is still a lock in a box, and discounted pricing is still important. But the products and value-added services set one distributor apart from another.

Each distributor is different. The perfect distributor for you may not be the right one for your colleague. To really find out what a distributor can do for you, you need to do some research, ask a lot of questions and compare one to another.

Although one distributor may get the bulk of your business, almost every locksmith needs to have a couple of alternatives. You may spend 80 percent of your dollars with Distributor A, but when you need something they don?t have or are out of temporarily, you need a backup source.

One good way to check out a distributor you don?t use now is to ?window shop? them. Pick out a specific window of time or product. For example, place all of your orders on Tuesday with Distributor B. Or, order all of your Schlage products one week with the supplier being tested. By doing this, you can directly compare prices, shipping time, customer service, fill rates, etc. If you like what you see, swing a little more of your business their way!

To compare different distributors, look at the following categories: Products, Places, People and Policies & Procedures.

PRODUCTS

Product Width ? A distributor should be able to provide a line card listing all the manufacturers they buy from. The variety of product will vary between distributors, and even from one branch to another. There will be a lot of overlap in the popular product lines and fewer distributors carrying the obscure brands.

Product Depth ? It?s good if a distributor carries products from hundreds of manufacturers. But if they only carry the top two or three items from each, that?s bad. Product depth means that in addition to the fast moving popular items, other less popular products or parts are stocked in some reasonable amount. If the distributor stocks a wide variety of popular finishes, alternate keyways and style options, your order can be filled and shipped as soon as possible.

Product Support ? Mounted samples, display racks and stands, product flyers, brochures and manufacturer?s catalogs can all help you move product. The more your customers can see and learn about a product, the better chance they?ll buy it from you.

Stock ? Do the items a distributor keeps in stock meet your needs? If they stock the brands you sell, do they carry the right functions, keyways and finishes?

Non-Stock ? When the distributor doesn?t stock the products you need, how easy is it for them to get it for you? Are they willing to get it for you or do they even offer? Tied to non-stock items are special orders. When an item is specially ordered, is it handled in an efficient manner? Do you get your order in a reasonable time?

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