Saturday, May 3, 2008

Are You Listening?

Are you really listening to what your customers are telling you?
Now that you've established a base of retailers (if you've come that far), you will know already what I'm about to tell you. Your customers have requests, some of them special requests, some of them possible criticisms or enhancements of your product. On the spot, and in the moment, you tell that customer, you are happy to receive the input, and thank you. But inside... the internal debate wells up.
Because I always seem to be so honest in this blog, I will reveal here the special requests/criticisms/product enhancements/product extensions that are suggested to me.

1. Matching oven mitts to go with the Smicko. The first time I got this request, I thought it would be a rather unique one. Turns out it's not. I will take a pass on this one, because honestly, I think it opens up a massive liability issue - do I really want to produce oven mitts for toddlers? I grant that the general population will not be putting their toddlers hands inside an oven, but heaven help me if just one person ever does. This gets filed under cute, but not doable.

2. Larger sizes for siblings. Under consideration, and likely to happen, though in much smaller runs.

3. Plasticized. Oh I debated this one up and down. Plastic or not? And if not, then why? Well, here's the secret - tots don't want to wear plastic 3x a day after a certain age. It's hot, it's uncomfortable, and if you've ever cared for one of these plastic numbers, it becomes quite grubby looking after many scrubs. Smicko'z go in the wash and dryer - and I think I like it this way.

4. Full sleeved. Again, difficult to convince a toddler to do. I am however prototyping a cap sleeved version, one that will still not nick at the neck. But again, prototype phase, and market possibly limited.

5. More butch male prints. I tried, I honestly scoured fabric designers for fabulous boy prints. And let's be honest with each other - in the tot market, boys just get the shaft. I found the best prints that I could, and I adore them, but those who have commented are certainly correct, there are but 3 obvious male prints compared to 10 girl prints, and 2 gender neutral. And it's a pity, believe me. I am still focussed on bringing more delightful male prints to market. And this will happen, promise.

Then - are you listening to your retailers? When they tell you one of the group doesn't do as well as the others, are you attentive? Because when they share with you that one is not doing well compared to the other 6 selling like gangbusters, they are asking you to DO something. It's up to you what to do. Likely they will slash the price and sell them off, but will not buy that particular one from you again. But will you grant them consideration on their next order? And if so, what can you actually afford to do? Like most manufacturers, your margin is likely slim. But I suggest to you that you find some way to keep the retailer happy - by any means, even if it means eating into some margin on one order. And as always, remember to SERVICE your retailers (those you deal with directly, your distributor/sales rep must handle the accounts that they service).

Finally, a note to Smicko'z World Readers - you are out there, I know, and reading this - which honestly boggles my mind sometimes. I am humbled that you come back, you email, follow along, encourage and support. The power of a blog, or this blog in particular is the ability to reach out and 'talk' as it were, with people you wouldn't ordinarily have the opportunity to meet. To those of you who have gone so far as to link this blog to yours, thanks many times over.

Smicko Lady.

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