by Karen Alberg Grossman
Inside Mur-Lee’s

Dear Karen,

Am I missing something or has all the conversation between retailers and vendors failed to produce any equitable solutions? Several brands are now trying to promote a “Specialty Store Appreciation Week” that will give retailers a portion of the sales on the brand’s website, while the brand still makes full markup.

Unfortunately, this does nothing to address the issue of reducing our current inventory, for which most brands expect retailers to pay full cost with minimal extra dating. Actually, it’s insulting to our intelligence to offer an extra 30 days when our stores are not even open yet, and might not be for at least another 30 days. And even then, who will be running in to buy suits or sportcoats when the selling season for Easter, Passover, weddings, proms and graduation is over? 

I applaud vendors for trying to come up with new ideas, it’s great, but they need to come up with a few that can benefit both retailers and manufacturers. If a vendor sells a product for $100 and gives me $20 for using my list and my marketing, they’re making $80 for something that probably cost them about $25. So, who’s making more profit? I also worry that some of these vendors are looking to start additional online shopping platforms in the future, which will only further erode independent stores’ market share.

I welcome thoughts from both sides of the industry.

Bruce Levitt

Mur-Lee’s, Lynbrook, New York


  1. Karen and Bruce…I have had the same thoughts…it will be interesting to see what the final offer is. Right now we are emailing and calling our customers…the response has been heartwarming. They want us back.

  2. I’m an independent designer/vendor also trying to figure out solutions? Paying my mills in Como, England and Peru before shipping me. Investing and taking chances in creating and bringing to the market new ideas, never mass produce, and never sell on line. I love what I do and the retailers who work with me, and will continue working for them. Perhaps we need to figure out on our own what is best for us? I’m hoping there is light at the end of the tunnel for all, knowing this is a tough road, but very optimistic we will get through. Tighten your seatbelts!

  3. Hi Bruce,
    You’re entirely correct in wanting to protect your customer names and lists. In the e-com world true 12 month “buyer” names are gold. We’ve turned down several well intentioned vendor concepts similar to what you mention where the vendor has offered a % of the sales from any transactions through their web/email that they gain via your customer list. The problem is even the most well intentioned vendor cannot promise that your customers won’t be re-marketed to by them. The customers IP addresses are picked up and become part of the automated marketing plan of these websites. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t afford to lose more customer traffic to the Brands that sell and compete with us.
    On the plus side, many of these vendors understood our concerns and tailored programs that we could control on our end through our website. Obviously much more challenging for the store side of the business to entertain offers when closed. I completely understand the vendors side of things in regards to payables and their own cash flow issues. I’m not sure there is a one size fits all approach that will please both sides, but it all starts with communication and relationships. If you didn’t know who your true “partners” in business were before this crisis you will certainly learn now.
    I believe the future landscape will continue to evolve and a big part of that will be forging even stronger relationships with our vendors. Those relationships get mentioned a great deal, but it’s really going to take a greater understanding of each sides ability to give aid and what their pain points are in order for it to work for both sides. There’s a lot of hard work to be done, but I believe we’re beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the growth of COVID-19. While 2020 projects to be quite the challenge for us all, I believe there will be new opportunities for the specialty stores. It’s the perfect time to begin plans to refresh or evolve one’s current business if needed, even if you won’t be able to execute some of those plans until down the road. Embrace what technology you can without losing the personal service that makes you special. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

  4. As a OTB consultant and a manufacturer’s rep, I see this from a unique perspective. The retailer who is going to make it in today’s marketplace is progressive and has lots of data to share with their vendors about the performance of their product, as well as their overall business. I don’t think most retailers and vendors get transparent enough in their conversations with each other. When I was a buyer, I shared reports with my vendors in a way that most vendors were not used to. Why not? The idea is for all of us to make money. If that is not happening on either side of the equation, then a new strategy and understanding needs to be developed. The idea of someone winning and someone losing or someone coming out ahead of the other has to go. The talk of partnership has to be further developed between retailer and vendor.

  5. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

    I actually called Bruce this morning after reading his letter, as I was concerned that SHOP FOR A SHOP (formerly known as Specialty Store Appreciation Week) was creating some confusion in the marketplace. Just to clarify: the intent of this initiative is for the participating vendors to run a discount on their own website (to incentivize purchase) and then commit a X% carve-out for their Specialty store partners. The brands will drive awareness for the sale via PR and their own email lists – there is NO requirement for the retailer to market the promotion to his/her own customer base. Said differently, we are simply going to write a “check” (well, likely credit open AR) to our retail partners with nothing asked in return. The participating vendors collectively want to see Specialty survive and somehow come out stronger during this crisis. We have many great brands signed-up to participate across multiple categories (Meyer, S. Cohen, Luchiano Visconti, St. Johns, etc).

    I’m aware that other brands are offering embedded URLs to track the origin of a purchase, so it can then credited back to the Specialty store. This works for some retailers and, for good reason, doesn’t work for others. For SHOP FOR A SHOP, if a retailer is ok with this approach, we’re happy to offer links during the promotion and then commit to not marketing to those customers down the road (to Pat’s comment above, this isn’t always full-proof given re-marketing capabilities via IP address/cookies).

    Bruce brought up the crux of the issue when we spoke this morning – how can vendors help sell the inventory sitting in Specialty stores across the country? In other words, is there a way for us to prioritize selling that merchandise vs. our own. My sense is that retailers will embrace embedded URLs much more if we can work together to determine a solution. Happy to jump on calls with like-minded brands and retailers to help make that a reality. In the meantime, we hope initiatives like SHOP FOR A SHOP truly work towards helping our Specialty store partners get through what has become a very difficult moment in time for everyone in the industry – retailers, vendors, and manufacturers.

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