Article > Opinion

Candy and Cashews

By Brian Cruickshank

What's the real difference between jobbers and retailers? These days, it's really more than just the snacks each sells.

The Jobber and the Retailer: two kinds of auto parts stores, often in two different parts of town. There was a time when the two addressed the market in significantly different ways, and that made sense, since their customers' needs were entirely different.

On any busy intersection, you'd find the retailer, with its national name atop an expansive and expensive store footprint. Inside, it was well-lit and consumer friendly. Faced, front-of-the-counter shelves were full of wipers, antifreeze and headlights. And, of course, there was candy.

In a very different part of town, often at the end of a dead-end street or on the industrial outskirts, you'd find the traditional jobber store with its wood floors, delivery trucks at the ready and cashews at the counter.

At a retail counter, you'd find a smiling guy, sourcing parts on a computer, following a carefully crafted make, model, year formula to find what the DIYer wanted. By contrast, if you walked into a jobber store, you'd see the counterman, two phones to his ear, nose in a stack of paper catalogs and the whir of a brake lathe in the background. If he didn't know you (or even if he did) you probably wouldn't get so much as a 'hello.' You should consider yourself a regular if you got a nod of the head. From the outside and in, the jobber store was the antithesis of the retailer: not well-lit, not well-merchandised. Of course, from the jobber's perspective, all that was pretty unnecessary. After all, they went to their customers, not the other way around.

Times do change. Today, the once distinct line between the retailer and the jobber is blurred at best. Today's jobber understands the importance of the walk-in retail trade and many of them are putting real effort into merchandising and store appearance. Really, they have no choice. Thankfully, though, they still sell cashews. For retailers, the opposite is true. They fully understand the importance of the professional trade. Recent Counterman market research shows that 86 percent of them now offer delivery, 83 percent extend credit and more than half have outside sales representation. But they still sell candy.

As far as snacks go, one might read a lot into that difference: Cashews are earthy and whole, not sugarcoated, much like the jobbers themselves. Candy, on the other hand, is much like the retailers: well-packaged, bright and colorful.

Considering the other similarities, one might erroneously contend that the only real difference between retailers and jobbers is the kinds of snacks each sells. They may view distributors and stores as mere commodities, as each offers the same things: same terms, delivery, caliber of employees and brands. Smart stores know better. They stand out among the crowd by offering expert service on a one-to-one basis. These are the intangibles, the real flavor of your business. Your customers have more choices than ever - give them a reason to choose you. Smart ones do.

As retailers and jobbers address their customers' needs, they'll continue to do so with many of the same weapons, albeit with just a little different flavor that goes well beyond candy and cashews.

  Previous Comments
avatar   Kyle   star   2/11/2009   4:01 PM

That must make me one of those green colored M&Ms

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