For furniture retailer Haverty's, meeting promised delivery schedules is critical. "Unfortunately, many factories that promise delivery do not consistently deliver on time," says Gross. "Quite honestly, some will do whatever they are allowed to get away with."
Of course, the company recognizes that things happen, says Gross. “But we need to know when something does. If a factory doesn’t get delivery of a fabric, for example, we need to be alerted at the time of the event, and not at the time our shipment is supposed to show up. We can handle delays, but we can’t handle surprises.”
Expected orders often are timed to promotions, Gross says, which underscores the importance of early warnings of delays. Aggravating this issue is the globalization of furniture manufacturing, which has added an average of 90 days to lead times.
With a “trust but verify” approach, Haverty’s stays in close contact with its factories to monitor the status of orders, says Gross. “If there is an issue, we have a consistent follow-up policy to ensure things stay on schedule.”
However, the single most important way to ensure consistent on-time deliveries “is to be important enough to the manufacturer to be put first in line,” Gross says. This doesn’t necessarily mean being the biggest customer. “Haverty’s has won awards for being one of the most trustworthy U.S. companies,” says Gross. “Manufacturers know that we are going to accept all orders we have placed and we are going to pay our bills on time, so we are an important customer even if we are not their largest.”
A large customer that cancels an order has a very negative impact on business, Gross says. “If our manufacturers know we are not going to do that, they really try not to let us down.”
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