Strategies : How has your department worked to better help customers during this time? SL: The purchasing department maintains a file share that gets relayed to our customers. We post updates on vendor and item specifics to keep everyone in the know. For our sales team, having this available at their fingertips helps answer specific questions in the field, especially where there are so many items and vendors affected. Information is key as customers understand the challenge the last year has brought. Everyone has noticed disruption across many industries. Our customers want an idea of when to expect our next shipment or a heads up of a replacement item or vendor brought in to fill a void. Strategies : Can you share some tips and best practices for customers who may be looking to optimize their planning and purchasing? SL: Promotions are a large part of our purchasing and planning process. Everyone loves a deal. When we’re offered a discount, we buy out heavier than normal in anticipation of being able to promote to our customers. The discount given and the estimation of how many units we can move are also taken into consideration. 2021 events as we celebrate our 150th anniversary. The purchasing department is working to put together some of the best deals and buying events surrounding our Spring 2021 Buying Market. There are big things in the works, including some items that are unique to Blish-Mize. The Buying Market will feature the top brands at industry-leading prices. We will also adjust the layout of the show to allow for more space between aisles, which will change the show’s look and feel. Utilizing more of the Overland Park Convention Center will allow us to keep a safe distance between everyone. Not many can celebrate the 150th year mark, so we will take every opportunity to host the best, long-overdue show. I look forward to getting back to the shows that 2020 did not allow. See you in March! This is something our stores can take advantage of with consistent, online promotions and at our Customer Buying Markets. Strategies : What would you like to share about purchasing and the upcoming Spring Market? SL: Blish-Mize has big plans in the works for both of our
fill rate for our customers. The past several months have seen an improvement in keeping product flowing. Some categories of goods will continue to be in short supply, most specifically personal protective equipment (PPE). Strategies : What has your experience been buying and filling orders during the COVID-19 pandemic? How has your department adjusted to changes during this time? SL: To keep up with the increased demand and longer lead times, we are buying sooner, seeking alternate suppliers and sources and working with vendors to make sure we stay up to date on the status of our orders. Communication with our vendors is a crucial element in staying current with the ever-changing situation. In some cases, inventory goes in and out of stock very quickly. This is especially true in PPE, as some products are still difficult to get a hold of. Strategies : Where would you say Blish-Mize is now compared to six months ago? SL: We are in a much better inventory position now. There is still some ground to make up to get back to our normal high standards on fill rate. Strategies : Do you have future plans or projections for the supply chain? SL: I anticipate a slow recovery where our vendors are concerned. It will take time for them to fulfill backorders. Lead times will likely remain extended through the first half of 2021. The supply chain still has some factors working against us that will prevent an immediate turnaround. Reduced space on container ships, limited transportation availability stateside, raw material shortages and the staffing effects of COVID-19 are still creating supply challenges. SL: Blish-Mize has always had the benefit of being able to react quickly. That proved very beneficial last year in the rapidly changing supply chain. The ability to set up a new supplier in a timely manner gives us the edge to change course and fill a void. We have also changed some internal technologies to more efficiently track open orders with our vendors, and this change will remain in place. Strategies : Do you see any of these changes or adjustments becoming a permanent part of your process?
“Blish-Mize has always had the benefit of being able to react quickly. That proved very beneficial last year in the rapidly changing supply chain. The ability to set up a new supplier in a timely manner gives us the edge to change course and fill a void.” —Sarah Lee, vice president of purchasing
6 Spring 2021 • Hardlines Strategies
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