Speedtech’s, VP of Sales, offers advice to Product Managers, Merchandisers and Buyers:

Featured in Industrial Distribution News, 11/01/2013

Top 3 Questions Distributors Should Ask A Prospective Hook and Loop Fastener Supplier.

Since the introduction of the category 20 years ago, hook and loop fasteners have become an important part of many Industrial Distributor’s product offering. As the category continues to grow, so has the demand for unique hook and loop cable ties, cinching straps and cut-to-length tapes.

The term ‘hook & loop’ speaks to numerous fastening solutions and for the purposes of this piece, we are focusing solely on the distinct niche of hook and loop products known as hook and loop cable ties, straps and back-to-back style tapes. Two examples of these types of product lines are SPEEDWRAP® and VELCRO® Brand hook and loop fasteners.

Because everyone understands, for example, the simplicity of a hook and loop tie, PM’s (Product Managers) can underestimate the complexity of related hook and loop fasteners. These Merchandisers often fail to ask critical question of their prospective hook and loop fastener supplier(s).

If you are considering adding a line of hook and loop ties, straps or tapes or you want to ensure your product offering and supplier partnership has you positioned properly, here’s what you want to know.

  1. Target Customers?
    With each market comes a unique set of hook and loop fasteners. For example, ‘integrators’ prefer back-to-back style, hook and loop cable ties because they are gentle on wires and come in a variety of colors. These installers also need ‘mounting’ solutions to route cords in closets. Maintenance, repair and operation customers require heavier duty straps that ‘cinch down’ on large bundles of cables or hoses. Serving the marine industry? You need polyester materials. And within just these three market examples, tons of lengths, widths, colors and materials offerings exist.Many hook and loop manufacturers specialize in certain products or markets, so you want to ensure you are meeting with the one(s) that are experienced with customers you are targeting.
  2. Look at your competitor’s product offering last.
    In today’s economic environment, most Industrial Distributors are operating with a ‘leaner’ staff. Since 2008, many PM’s are overwhelmed and can be forced to cut corners. For example, if the PM is adding a new line of hook and loop ties and straps, they tend to look primarily at their competitors. If you were short on time, wouldn’t you? As a result, they ask the potential supplier to quote on those items and little else. This can be a huge mistake, especially with this product category.Just like your company, your competitor may ‘run lean’ and their Merchandisers may only evaluate a product category once every three years. When it comes to hook and loop fasteners, three years are like dog years! If your competitor added or last evaluated their line of hook and loop products three years ago, there might be 20 new products that are better sellers or have replaced them.For example, your competitor might be selling black fire retardant hook and loop ties, when recently the industry has gravitated to cranberry as the default color for FR ties and Plenum Rated ties. Copy your competitor and you are selling yesterday’s news!
  3. Ask the supplier: What challenges will YOU encounter, post-product launch?
    I humbly submit to you that this is the number one question PM’s overlook.
    Mr. Potential Supplier, what products do you think we need, why and what challenges will my company encounter after we start selling them?” That’s a million dollar question.

“Mr. PM, I should also point out that once you stock these items in this size, in black, a big customer will call and ask for that item in red. The request for ‘unique’ or non-stocked items is going to be your top challenge.” Now that is a key piece of information. And with The Distribution of hook and loop fasteners, this is not only the challenge but also one the best opportunities.

Once you force this evaluation process to focus down stream, the real important factors are exposed. For example, how is your prospective supplier going to help you service those ‘non-stocked’ or ‘NIC’ items? Do they manufacture or are they merely reselling these items to you? How quickly can they turn around your customer’s request? Are they geographically desirable? Do they offer drop-shipments and in a confidential manner? Are their products UL rated and are they ISO Certified?

Conclusion
Yes, ask your standard supplier evaluation questions about the sale and product opportunity, profitability, specs and support. But when it comes to this niche of hook and loop fasteners for cord, cable and hose management, failing to ask the three questions I have offered today causes problems for your customers, your buyers and your customer service department. A truly qualified hook and loop fastener manufacturer, can ensure you are positioned to succeed and for years to come.

About the author
Steven Pope has been selling fasteners for 19 years. He was a leading Sales Representative for a plastic fastener manufacturer and has been the owner and Vice President of Speedtech International, Inc for over 12 years. Speedtech helped pioneer the development of hook and loop cable management as a product category and is the manufacturer of the SPEEDWRAP® line of hook and loop products. For more information visit www.speedtechinternational.com or email steve at sales@speedtechinternational.com