It’s much too early to gauge the impact The Pro Group’s “virtual distribution” model with Panasonic will have on its members but we have to believe it’s a strong start to improving forecasts, tightening the supply chain, decreasing inventory and improving overall communications between the vendor and independent dealers.
In a nutshell, the program calls for Panasonic to tie the participating retailers’ point-of-sale systems into the vendor’s Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment system. One of the most important pieces of the program, however, seems to be the dedicated sales rep Panasonic will assign to each account, providing the human contact and one-on-one consulting that no electronic system can replace. Retailers constantly tell us they do the most business with the vendors that provide them with a trusted, readily available single point of contact. There’s no reason Panasonic shouldn’t see the same results if the program is executed with all the right pieces in place.
Retailers at The Pro Group’s Spring Meeting, where the announcement was made, supported the concept but said they had to see the program in action until giving it their full approval. Cautious optimism is fine as long as retailers realize they have to put as much or more into these types of programs as the vendor and buying group.
Depending on the success of this program, Dave Workman, The Pro Group’s executive director, hopes to roll out similar initiatives with other vendors sometime next year.
In an industry where new product turns continue to increase, commoditization occurs at faster rates, and the supply chain spreads across more disparate players across the globe, these types of collaborative forecasting and planning programs will make more and more sense.
They are especially important in building relationships between vendors and smaller retailers. Specialty dealers might not push volume like the big boys, but they have established strong brand recognition and customer loyalty within strategic demographics, understand the importance of customer satisfaction, develop deep technical knowledge that leads to fuller solutions sales, and are willing to take a chance selling newer products backed by creative marketing strategies that bigger players won’t touch.
It’s too early to gauge the success of The Pro Group’s new program, but it’s never too early to introduce a carefully thought out plan designed to bolster the entire retail channel.