Preface: This is a nerdy discussion about supply issues and logistics, but without the jargon. This is a discussion of the matter from a retailer/store owner perspective. So while this may shed some light on things you’ve experienced, please take note of the fact that things will be a little different for both of us in this situation.
This is an investigation and speculation about the possible causes of some of the problems we’ve seen on the supply end during first quarter 2017.
I’ll start with the easiest one.
- A supplier completely abandoned the idea of developing any new items with inexpensive builds, instead opting to focus on luxury styles. This results in sluggish output and lengthy backorders.
Any associated price hikes are easy to explain. They most likely just raised the prices to offset increased production costs (Occam’s razor).
I blame the backorders and slow production for this supplier on good old-fashioned style-over-substance and short sightedness.
We sell wigs in my store. The company I’m referring to can charge more for wigs with luxury hand-knotted and hand-made components, so they are emphasizing this to position themselves as a luxury brand. The problem with this, though, is that it inherently causes supply problems because these are much more resource-intensive to create and much more time-consuming to bring to market.
Hand-tied, hand-made wigs take a full 30-40 hours of work PER WIG. That’s for ONE wig. The art of knotting a wig is called ventilation and it is a skilled trade, involving a 14-month apprenticeship and a lot of practice. Another problem is that this trade involves a lot of repetitive motion, so these tradespeople cannot do this job indefinitely. All of these factors make these items extremely difficult to mass-produce, particularly when compared to the relatively inexpensive machine made wigs this brand is all but abandoning in order to focus on their brand image.
This is short sided because it is unsustainable. This company is a relatively small player in the world of alternative hair. They’re already having trouble keeping up with the demand for their existing luxury products, so adding more to their brand places more pressure on them to source MORE factories, MORE tradespeople, MORE EVERYTHING. This is something that they have yet to do in a meaningful fashion. I don’t even need to ask them. It’s self-evident because they’re always low on stock. While there is something to be said for wanting to avoid unnecessary warehouse surpluses, it’s another thing entirely to continually operate on lengthy backorder lists because your output cannot match demand. Developing these products without a clearly defined production and supply solution is akin to magical thinking and ultimately leads to lapses in quality control and repetitive delays.
But, if you’re a retailer like me, you are already familiar with the fact that too many suppliers focus on their image at the expense of production. The trade-off makes sense, since the marketing machine is what keeps the wheels of commerce in motion. However, it’s all just smoke and mirrors if you don’t have a product to sell.
One more installment to go — and it’s a doozy! Stay tuned for part three!