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Shipping Times


vanilla
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Hello everyone,

I just wanted to get some feedback on an issue our company is currently facing. We have been in business for 3 years now and have built a good strong customer and consultant base.

All of our candles have always been hand poured and made to order so there is a 2 week lead time before the products ship. (I've worked with big companies and stock shelves in the past before and it can take 2 weeks to get products from them as well) We have also told our customers that they are truely receiving a candle that is made just for them.

Recently we have been loosing a few consultants to "larger" companies that stock their products and can ship within a few days. The feedback is that their customers don't care about the hand poured candles they just want their orders and they want them fast.

There is no way with the size of our company to stock our candles the only way we could do it is to offer VERY few scents.

Do any of you have this issue with shipping times, is it really the customers or the sales people not sharing the importance of the candle cure times etc.

Thanks for any insight or imput, we want our business to continue to grow and it seems things are really slow right now.

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Are these 'consultants' the contacts you have for your wholesale accounts? I got a little lost here. It may just be because I'm supposed to be in bed, and I'm not :P, but I didn't quite follow who was complaining.

Your customers or your wholesale accounts?

If it's your customers, I'd try to build up a stock of at least your best selling candles, and smaller quantities of your other products. I know there's another thread going on right now that is talking about how much stock they keep on hand. One person mentioned keeping 6+ of her best selling scents, and 3 of her slower selling scents. That way when she gets orders she can ship them right away. But she also doesn't have a HUGE overstock that isn't selling. It also keeps the candles fresher, but it also gives them that cure time that you talked about.

The concept of specially poured candles (ie, pour when the order) is great in concept. However, I have noticed, especially in the last few years, that speedy convenience is a HUGE issue with customers today. Otherwise why would Windex Wipes be so popular. I've always thought these were the laziest things in the world! How difficult is it to grab a bottle and a couple paper towels. However, they sell. Convenience and instant gratification SELLS.

So for me, a two week lead time as a normal every day type of order is way too long. I expect a normal shipping time of 1-4 days for most of my orders when I order things in. Four is only during busy times, honestly. And this is a time line I do everything in my power to stick to as a seller. I've botched it a number of times over the last month after our move, but my customers were alerted to it, usually up front before they placed their order, and we got through it. But it was an exception, not the norm.

If it is the consultants for wholesale accounts that are complaining, honestly, I'd tell them, "If the speed is that important to you, then you'll be better off with another supplier. If you care more about the quality of the products, stick with me, but I need the two week lead time." And then STICK TO IT! If it was part of your original terms, then they have nothing to complain about. I have always been very up front with my wholesale accounts about needing a three week lead time. More if I'm out of stock on soaps, as they need a cure time. I give them a brief explanation of the cure time needed for soaps, and make sure they understand how important it is. I also ask them to give me forewarning of pending orders for soaps if they happen to have them. Some have forewarned me, most haven't.

I think it's unreasonable to expect a company to provide wholesale products in less than two weeks. If your terms were clear up front, just politely remind them of that. And STICK TO THEM. If you bend the rules once, they'll expect it every time, and they'll push you for more later. Anyway, off my soap box!!!:D

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Are you running this as a DSA company? If so, maybe your consultants aren't just simply leaving you for larger companies because of the time, there could be many other factors..such as commission, prizes, customers complaining of lead time on orders, customer incentives not as good as the larger companies, etc. Also if this is DSA then you are in a tight competition with some bigger candle companies out there. I myself do not like when I order from say Pampered Chef (my absolute favorite) and it takes two weeks or longer to get my stuff. I start thinking, where did my money go, am I gonna ever get my stuff, this company is huge so why is it taking so long, someone stole my money! DSA customers will be very faithful to your company, but once they get a bad taste in their mouth over one issue they are gone quicker than the wind. Then once your consultants start losing customers over that, they themselves start losing their commissions, prize incentives, etc. And there are tons and tons of people who really could care less if it is a hand-made or machine-made item as long as it smells good and it is in their hands within a reasonable amount of time, the sooner the better though.

I think having a stock of your best sellers is a good idea. When you sell one, re-make one. If you are going to introduce a new scent, be sure to make quite a few, let them cure a bit, THEN advertise the new scent. I myself am one of those "I want it now" people unfortunately. You would think I have more patience with having 4 kids and a husband but oh no I sure don't rofl!

If you are working with tons of scents, you should really take a good look at your list and eliminate those scents that just aren't selling or you really haven't sold enough to justify having it. I am not fond of going to order a candle or soap and having umpteen scents to choose from..too much for my brain to handle. So, take a look at your scent list, whittle it down a bit, choose your best sellers and some of your next best, go on a candle making marathon blitz. Once you got your stock, simply replace once items have sold and use the old rotating stock bit, new to the back, older to the front. That will give a bit more curetime on your newer ones and you are still able to ship almost immediately when you get an order.

Angi

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Thanks for the imput.

We are a small DSA customer and have always been upfront with everything regarding how our products are made and how the need to cure so that is why we have a larger lead time. We have a number of different types of candles and scents and I've thought about scalling back so that maybe we could stock a bit but then you have the issue of people who really like the varitey we have to offer. You can never please everyone ;).

I don't compare us to the larger companies out there and I hate when other people try to because we can not compare to what they can afford to offer or their huge warehouse of stock. But all companies started somewhere and they were not all huge companies in the beginning.

I have been tossing around the idea of offering wholesale as well as our consultant program and have been reasearching how to set it up in a way that will fit our business.

I have never had a customer complain about the shipping time of a product they purchased from me themselves and I believe that is because I'm upfront with them and explain how the products are made etc. I'm starting to believe that maybe the consultants that have complained about having customers with issues may not be explaining this in the right manner to their customers so I've started to try to train them more on it.

To be offer the best quality product I can is the most important thing since so much of the products out their on the market (with just about everything these days) is massed produced and you really don't know what goes into it. But that is what is important to me and I know there are many that don't feel the same.

It's a sticky spot because I want to grow my business but I don't want to give up my values of the company and I don't really have the room for stocking candles either.

Thanks again, I have alot to think about.

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Training is the main key when running a DSA. Those consultants you have selling your items need to be YOU. They need to know what you know, they need to know exactly what they should be telling your customers about your products and your company. They are basically your billboard. I understand that variety is key, however, maybe you could offer the variety on a select few items so it would be easier on you and if you have catalogs, you could even put a page of products that offer the variety and have written on that page your lead times on those items.

Going wholesale and having consultants may be a bit much. All your larger DSA companies are strictly consultant based, no wholesale at all. However, only you know what you are capable of doing so I say give it a try to see how it goes. However, you may find as your business grows and you gain more and more consultants, the custom choice candles and pouring as orders come in will have to be a thing of the past. So definitely keep that in mind. There may come a time (and you should really be hoping for this if you are running a DSA) where you can no longer offer custom choices and will have to have a solid product line where you have items in stock.

Just some ideas :).

Angi

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