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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.

Edition: May 2017

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