Pass the Buck

Did you know distributors can help you save cash?
This story first appeared in the March 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Each year, Jean Boylan, 49, and her sister, Jacqueline Killian, 44, produce a catalog of products from their Beyond the Blackboard stores, where they sell teaching supplies. Best of all: Their distributors pay for most of it.

"We share the cost of the printing, but [distributors] work with manufacturers for us to obtain co-op dollars to offset that cost, too," says Boylan.

Distributors--wholesale operations that resell products to retailers--can help smaller operators in a variety of ways, says Edward Sundberg of The Burruano Group, a Naples, Florida, business consulting firm. He advises retailers to ask their distributors for:

  • Planning assistance: Some wholesalers will offer you personnel to merchandise products and ensure your inventory is up-to-date.
  • Price promotions: "Distributors may cut prices down to cost to move inventory, especially if they have new inventory coming in," Sundberg says. It's also possible to negotiate price breaks if you have a particular promo in mind.
  • Marketing support: While distributors supply everything from displays to ad designs, Sundberg says "free dollars are hard to come by these days." Still, distributors have an inside track on co-op dollars from the manufacturer--and may have a few bucks up their own sleeves.

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans.

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