2022 Top Suppliers: How Taking a Risk Paid Off for Koozie Group
As part of Print+Promo Marketing's 2022 Top Suppliers list, we asked some of the top-ranked suppliers about how they managed to continue to grow and bounce back from the pandemic, their thoughts on where the industry stands, their future plans and more.
Read on for our conversation with David Klatt, CEO of Koozie Group, the No. 5 supplier on our list. Or, download the full Top Suppliers resource for the complete interviews, detailed stats and analysis for the Top 65, and results for our 2022 Supplier Excellence Awards.
Koozie Group – No. 5
2021 sales: $300.0 million
1,389 employees, eight locations
Established in 1908
Koozie Group could have white-knuckled it through all the challenges of 2021. But, rather than panic, it analyzed where it focused its resources and attention, and created a plan for its product offerings and inventory. Like so many others on this list, a lot of success came down to having products in stock when supply chain issues marred the industry. Koozie Group CEO David Klatt says that getting out in front of demand was a bit of a risky move at the time, but paid off when the company could be there for its clients during the busy holiday season.
“We quickly learned that success relies on maximum flexibility in all aspects of the business — from running day-to-day operations to crafting short- and long-term strategies,” Klatt says. “The complexity and uncertainty in the world prompted us to look at ways to simplify things, starting with our portfolio.”
As for adding products, Koozie Group paid attention to what worked already, rather than take too many unnecessary risks by adding new products for the sake of it. “Since 2020, we’ve reduced the number of products we sell from over 3,200 to just north of 2,500,” Klatt says. “We’re focusing on best-selling items, which allows our sales team to become experts in the products and categories we offer. We’re carefully launching fewer new products, making sure that any item that we bring on board gets the attention it deserves.”
Proactive Approach: Aside from its focus on quality-over-quantity when it comes to inventory, Klatt said that his company took a look at the things it could do to make life even easier for distributor customers. As new issues present themselves on what seems like a daily basis, Klatt says that being as consistent as possible for customers can offset some of that unpredictability and difficulty. The company has done that through a renewed focus on customer service, as well as adopting new technological practices.
“First and foremost, we prioritized customer service, and saw — and continue to see — the fruits of that focus,” Klatt says. “Data will become increasingly important to driving buying behaviors. We’ll need to take proactive approaches to the sales cycle to ensure we can provide customers what they want, when they want it. We’ve recently been seeing a growing emphasis on building relationships and connecting with customers on their terms."
Koozie Group has been using technology in its hiring process and employee retention process, too, by engaging potential employees on social media. Klatt says that he predicts greater adoption of chat, SMS and AI at Koozie Group as it continues to find new ways to increase efficiency and speed in the order fulfillment process.
Future Plans: Going into 2023, Koozie Group is also looking for ways to make a difference — in its own company by focusing on employee well-being, for customers with curated inventory and other tools, and in the community overall.
“Beyond the increased levels of customer experience that we are now delivering, we are committed to our Keep It. Give It. corporate responsibility initiatives,” Klatt says. “Currently, 60% of our products have a proven sustainability stance, and in the last year our domestic facilities have become FSC and SFI certified. We have the largest assortment in the industry of USA-made products, which allows us to quickly turn large orders.”
As Klatt answers our questions, he’s at home in Florida as Hurricane Ian passes through, proving once again that as scary moments happen, it’s possible to maintain momentum and success if you’re prepared and working together.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say how our people have responded to this weather event,” he says. “The fact that we were able to operate all our functions outside of manufacturing in Clearwater, Florida, speaks to the dedication and resilience of our people. I couldn’t have asked for anything more as a leader.”