Diary of a Demented Store Owner

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Jen-Ken Kilns Arrive! And Mike Goes Off on Another Rant

It's been a particularly good week for Ben Gay and Robaxacet for muscle sores and back pain as we've been busy receiving several truckloads of goods from the States- on Wednesday, a huge delivery of kilns, followed two days later by our dichroic glass shipment.
As for the kiln delivery, aside from the best sellers, we brought in a couple of large models such as a new 24” x 24” square kiln (no stupid space inefficient round corners like most large kilns) that you’ve just got to see…oops, never mind, they all sold out in two days! Don’t worry, we’ll get more. In the meantime, we’ve got a slew of 11” and 15” models, all with computer controllers, complete with shelving included, etc.
Now, to the rant-
Yes, we are continuing on a program of sourcing out goods from outside Canada as it seems our Canadian stained glass distributor has taken advantage of the rising Canadian dollar and done little to lower pricing (as a matter of fact, stuff like Glastar product has just recently risen in price- I know, Glastar raised their prices to their distributors, but the price increase would have to have been in the order of 25% or more to see these new prices). At least someone is making a profit in this tough market today. But is this short sighted thinking good for our industry’s long-term health? I think not.
Why do we go through the hassle of bypassing the Canadian distributor and go to the States? Well, it’s the only way to stay competitive with the American market and stem the tide of cross-border shoppers. We're seeing pricing here unchanged from a year ago when goods should be at least 20% cheaper. Heck, I can buy glass cutters, grinders and other sundries at retail from a store in Buffalo cheaper than I can pay for it wholesale in Canada!
And that is the point of this rant- we fear for the long term health of the Canadian market if this is to continue much longer. Our customers are finding ever cheaper alternatives to the Canadian shopkeeper in the States and may never return, and Canadian retailers will either fail to survive or find alternative sources to our Canadian supplier, never to return to the Canadian supplier.
As a retailer on the front line, we are now seeing a serious erosion of our customer base; for example, Saturdays which is a typically busy day, is also a day when we attract people from farther distances. Now we see fewer customers coming to us from say, 50-150 miles away and assume they now prefer to make the trek to the States.
How do we know we're losing market share? Anyone can check out pricing on the web and see we're at a disadvantage, or listen in on the phone calls we get from people telling us they want a Taurus band saw for $379.95 U.S. (that's $361.00 CDN) from a retailer in the States who is making a profit at that price, when they cost us more than that (with no profit yet, and on sale at the distributor too!). Heck, we can buy them from Delphi at retail and do better than buying them here from our local distributor.
So, that’s why we do what we must do to survive. The proof is in the pudding- recent American purchases have resulted in the following savings:
Chemicals such as Fry Flux- down 20%!
Sale Squares- from an old average of $3.99-4.99, now $2.99!
Speedster Bandsaws- down 30% in the last six months!
Bullseye Fusible Glass- down an average of 12% (and the next shipment due with even greater saving)
Dichroic glass and kilns- savings anticipated in the range of 15-25%
And we will continue…

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