Hardware Retailing asked distributors how they amended operations to best serve their customers during the initial phases of lockdown, including communication and supply chain logistics. Read the remarks from Distribution America‘s president and CEO Dave Christmas below, and click here to read comments from other wholesaler representatives.
Hardware Retailing (HR): Obviously, the situation changes day to day, so it’s difficult to make a plan for many weeks into the future. What are your plans at this time to manage your supply chain or helping member distributors manage theirs?
Dave Christmas (DC): DA is assisting our members with many activities related to the supply chain of COVID-19 related products. This includes finding new sources as well as monitoring and managing shortages from current suppliers. We do have many situations where we receive information from an unknown supplier. In those cases, we have a vetting process designed to ensure that all new suppliers are credible sources.
HR: How are you staying in communication with distributors and vendors?
DC: We have been communicating as we typically do via individual calls and emails and are also experiencing an increase in video conferencing. We are trending toward a greater frequency of calls and emails, especially when it relates to product availability. We want to make sure we share time-sensitive material as soon as possible with the group. The vendors have been very responsive. They want to do what they can to help retailers and distributors supply the products needed to help us all during these difficult times.
HR: What are your recommendations/solutions to your members for communicating to you about their operations or requests for products? Has the system for that changed?
DC: We pride ourselves to be readily available for our members. We facilitate inter-member communication and can use the entire DA network to help each other. Whether it be issues with products and vendors or sharing best practices, chances are, if one DA distributor has an experience worth sharing, another member will benefit from the information.
HR: How are you addressing high demand for certain products, like household cleaners and paper goods?
DC: We are currently having more success with availability of some of these products in the supply chain. Hand sanitizer seems to be getting back in good supply (especially the larger sizes). Household cleaners are becoming available, but aerosol disinfectants are still very difficult to find. We are also finding sources for disposable and fabric masks. Paper goods had been hit and miss, but suppliers have stepped up production and there appears to be more availability today. We expect to see high demand for all these products going forward and we continue to look for new sources to fill the void.
HR: What recommendations do you have for retailers and/or your distributors to continue the supply chain through to their customers while keeping health and safety top of mind?
DC: First and foremost, everyone needs to be complying with the evolving regulations for their city and county. Policies designed to lessen the gravity of COVID-19 vary from region to region, and each business must keep informed. The health and safety of employees and customers should be the highest priority for any business.
Retailers in our industry may be seeing new customers travel from urban areas to the safety of less congested areas, providing opportunities for more business but potential challenges with heavier foot traffic. Safety measures such as occupancy limits, social distancing, contact free payment options and store sanitizing practices need to be communicated and updated on websites, store signage, social media etc.
Additionally, retailers should inform customers of current in-store inventory, especially products in high demand right now, communicate if curbside pickup or delivery is available and make sure hours of operation and contact information are always up to date. Finally, let customers know when deliveries are expected and if special orders are an option.