B.C. HENSCHEN, a certified pet care technician
and an accredited pet trainer, is a partner in
PLATINUM PAWS, a full-service pet salon and
premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His
knowledge of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners who
want more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.
PERSPECTIVES & OPINIONS FROM AROUND THE INDUSTRY
Why purchasing directly from independent micro manufacturers is sometimes the right thing to do.
BY B.C. HENSCHEN
If you have a choice, do you order a product through a distributor or directly from the manufacturer? If a product is available through my normal distribution lines, I’m going to order it that way. It is just so easy,
and, in fact, most micro independents see a distributor
truck on a regular basis. We can get a variety of products
delivered to our store, usually with a nominal delivery
charge. We don’t have to worry about making minimums
with individual brands, and distributors will even help us
with additional discounts or support when we are bringing in a new line. When everything goes as planned, distributors make our lives easier.
Still, things don’t always go as planned.
If you name an issue with a distributor, every micro
independent has probably experienced it. What really
frustrates me are the exclusive agreements distributors
have with manufacturers that prohibit me from taking
my business elsewhere. With that being said, I do understand the frustrations distributors have with micro independents. We can be challenging to deal with, and the
distributors aren’t exactly making a fortune off of us as, in
most cases, they aren’t sending us huge pallets each week.
Recently, one of my distributors stopped carrying a
few products from one of my supplement manufactur-
ers. I would rather a distributor discontinue an entire line
than just some of it. That means I’m going to have to find
a new source for those missing products. Many times, the
new source will have minimums, so I end up having to
switch more items to the new distributor. Another dis-
tributor equals another delivery date and another truck
to deal with. Soon, it becomes difficult to keep track of all
of the distributors. I receive more trucks and deal with
more distributors than I did when I worked for a big-box
pet supply store, which I find amazing.
I called the manufacturer to complain about the changes its distributor had made. The manufacturer asked me
why I was not buying directly. Like many of the smaller specialized manufacturers, this firm sells directly to
retailers as well as through distributors. I replied that I
thought the small manufacturers preferred that retailers
buy through distributors because that could help cement
their distributor relationship and potentially help their
brands grow in other markets. Because I don’t do a ton
of business in the company’s line, I asked if small orders
wouldn’t be a hassle for the company. The manufacturer
said the higher margin it would make by selling directly
to me absolutely offsets the “hassles.” As far as increasing
its numbers with distributors, the manufacturer went on
to explain that this used to be a valid point but that it isn’t
Just as I was experiencing with this distributor, many
distributors are thinning out the slower-moving products, and many are dropping entire lines of products.
It’s really no surprise that many of those items are the
products micro independents highly recommend. At
the end of the conversation, I promised to buy all of the
company’s products directly. However, the manufacturer
did not want me to name him in this column. I asked,
“Why the secrecy?” You would think the company would
want me to shout it from the rooftops. The manufacturer
said that although the company would prefer retailers to
purchase direct, it still wishes to have relationships with
distributors, so the company cannot be suggesting
retailers buy direct.
I must admit when I made the agreement to purchase
directly from the manufacturer, I thought “that’s going
to be a pain.” It might not be the hassle of dealing with
another semi in my parking lot, but it’s still going to be
a separate order and delivery fees, and I won’t get the
products as quickly. It’s pretty quick and easy just to
have a distributor throw a couple bottles on to my week-
ly truck. It was at that point I realized I was thinking the
exact thing I hear every day: “Micro independents are not
convenient and cost more.”
These small manufacturers are micro independents
that are battling against the multimillion-dollar conglom-
erate manufacturers just like micro independent retailers
are battling against the huge conglomerate retailers. If you
look closely at most of these micro independent manufac-
turers, you are going to see another similarity to us: They
are in this industry because they want to help pets live
longer, healthier lives. The passion and the knowledge a
micro independent has adds a value that outweighs any
of the negatives and applies to our micro independent
manufacturers as well.
If you can buy directly from your favorite small manufacturers, please do. I certainly think you will find much
value in helping the micro independent manufacturing
segment survive, which, in turn, is helping us survive.
Kerr has spent the past 11 years in the industry. She
worked at The Bramton Co., growing both the Out! International brand in retail, as well as the Simple Solution
and Bags on Board brands with specialty pet retailers.
She then moved to PetEdge, where she acquired
and managed numerous large corporate accounts as
director of national accounts. Beyond building close
relationships with key brick-and-mortar and e-commerce customers, Kerr also played a pivotal role in
sales, marketing and product development for PetEdge,
according to officials.
Bravo Pet Foods has promoted
MELISSA VAN VACTOR to
vice president of sales. In this
new role, she will be responsible
for supporting a network of 25
distributors and launching an interna-
tional sales program, as well as be integrally involved
in the development and launch of new products, said
Van Vactor has been with Manchester, Conn.-
based Bravo Pet Foods for five years, beginning as the
Midwest sales manager. She got her start in the pet in-
dustry nearly a decade ago, and has continued building
upon a wealth of market experience and information to
help her continued success.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory
Council (PIJAC) hired former
U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) senior advisor SAVONNE
CAUGHEY as its director of govern-
Caughey has nearly two decades of high-level
government relations and public affairs experience at
organizations such as American Heart Association, the
USDA and Elanco Animal Health.
In her new role, Caughey will represent PIJAC on
a wide range of issues before federal, state and local
governments. She will provide key leadership for the in-
dustry on regulatory matters and assist industry mem-
bers in communicating with lawmakers. In addition to
her advocacy duties, Caughey will spearhead PIJAC’s
leadership on animal disease prevention.
Ziwi USA in Overland Park, Kan., has
hired MACKENZIE SHELL as a custom-
er service representative and sales
admin. Shell will offer customer service
to the company’s North American cus-
tomers, manage distributor communications
and provide administrative support to the company’s
expanding sales organization.
Shell managed a pet specialty retail store for the
past three years, developing in-depth knowledge of
pet nutrition as well as insight into the needs of both
consumers and industry professionals.
Isle of Dogs, based in
Germantown, Wis., hired JIM
GALLAGHER as its East Coast
regional manager to help grow
the company’s line of grooming
products as well as expand its
collection of Nourish 90 percent meat, air-dried dog and
cat food, jerky bites, dental chews and supplements.
Gallagher has 14 years of experience in the pet
industry. Covering small and large territories from Maine
to Florida and Eastern Canada, Gallagher was instrumental in acquiring and managing numerous retailer
and distributor accounts, said company officials.
Sometimes working directly with
your independent manufacturer
vendors is the best way to go.
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