I wanted to let our community of retailers and manufacturers know what the winters group has been doing over the past few months:
Our mission and purpose have never changed.
The winters group is here to help buyers make good choices and procure products that will create a dynamic retail environment.
During the early days, as everything shut down, we needed to figure out what we could do to help our retailers, and also prepare us for what would change and how we would conduct business in new ways.
Like everyone, we were faced with so many questions –
- What is this new normal?
- What needs to change?
- How will we continue to operate in this new environment?
- What is the logistics involved around showing product, sending catalogs, and writing orders?
And most importantly:
- How will we work with our retailers?
The winters group needed to prepare and be ready to assist our vendors and retailers as they began to emerge and re-open. We needed education and information. We had the technology. We needed to figure out how to use it more effectively.
We read as many articles as possible and attended webinars with everyone from politicians and local leaders, Chamber of Commerce forums, Trade Association presentations, and Brandwise, our software provider, who put together twice weekly, informative sessions on topics ranging from tariffs to using our order writing software effectively, to creating and conducting virtual appointments.
From the first week we were shut down until today, the winters group has gathered on a weekly call. At first just to touch base and make sure everyone and their families were ok. But quickly the calls became more practical – how do we reach out to our retailers and help those who were beginning to sell online and doing curbside pick-up?
Over the months, the meetings have evolved…we started to discuss and learn how to conduct a virtual sales appointment. We remained in contact with our stores by emailing and offering tips on how to post on social media, how to utilize those platforms and create retail sales.
Every rep has worked hard to prepare themselves for virtual appointments, using social media, and learning new technologies.
Last month, we sent out a retailer survey to help us better understand their needs.
We learned our retailers want to buy from us, but not in the same way.
They want our advice, our expertise, our suggestions.
Most feel they are not ready to return to the show circuit.
They do not want reps popping in to say hi and drop off a catalog.
What have WE learned?
- We have seen retailers rise to the challenge of working in the digital age. They have created web sites, are selling online, and arranging curbside pickup.
- Buyers are beginning to write orders and are responding to our marketing efforts.
- Change is all around us as we experience some stores going out of business, reps retiring, and manufacturers closing.
Although our entire industry is experiencing a decline in sales, we are ready to work.
We have challenged ourselves to learn new ways of conducting business and creating sales.
It is not easy.
Life will not return to normal, and yet, we will sell, and they will buy.
The end use consumer will still want what we have.
Our reps’ relationships with our clients are strong.
The winters group is now able to face these challenges and succeed in this highly unusual business climate –
We have our new tools in place, and retain the same values we have had forever –
Our reps will remain focused on the retailer and we will do all we can to help them be successful in this new environment.
We are here for you – our valued vendors and retailers.
We welcome you back to business and look forward to collaborating with you, in person, electronically, or however you like!
Thanks for your time,
the winters group