With the changing shape of card publishers’ sales forces, a paucity of agents and a spate of changing distribution arrangements recently, Sally Matson, owner of Red Card in Petworth revealed how she is feeling about service from suppliers and what would be on her wish-list for improvements.
How are suppliers doing on the service front?
“I find that the smaller the company, the better and more flexible the service. When you are dealing with the owner/artist these are also the people you meet and deal with at the trade shows, via email, and on the phone. You build a relationship with them, they know your shop and you are able to work together to the mutual benefit of both businesses, especially regarding issues like minimum order quantities, delivery times, damages and special requirements.
The medium-sized companies, which often started small, tend to offer the same good service as long as you build a relationship with their support staff. Invoicing and delivery issues can be a little frustrating once the company gets larger, but they are generally okay.
As a small independent shop, the larger companies are generally a nightmare! Sorry, but sadly this is true. The only real exception to this rule that I have found is Paperlink, who are terrific – but I have been seeing the same agent for more than ten years. I feel, the larger companies always give priority to the large retailers, which means availability of stock, deliveries, invoicing and service always suffer.”
How do you feel about the online ordering v face to face?
“Now a lot more companies offer the opportunity of ordering online, which I find works for some companies and not for others. I still like to maintain contact with the actual people involved, as that is one of the things I most enjoy about running my business. I also like to see and feel the actual product when new things are available as this is pretty important when selecting stock. If companies are going to stop having reps and agents then they have to increase their presence at trade shows, otherwise shops will not see their product.
There seems to have been a lot of shuffling about with sales agents/reps and companies in the last couple of years, and this is not always communicated very effectively, meaning sometimes companies drop off your radar as you are not contacted or don’t know who to contact.”
What is on your wishlist service-wise?
“I would like to see more representation from card companies at trade shows. And I’d love to see bigger companies behaving like smaller companies and treating small independents with the same care and attention they give their largest retailers.”