The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle
Is product safety and compliance a trend? Or is it here to stay? The answer depends on whom you ask. If you are regularly talking to marketing or procurement leaders at most Fortune 1000 companies, it's evident they are paying much more attention to this topic. At this time, however, there is no stampede toward compliance. Rather, it's a steady progression, one client at a time.
But don't be fooled. The move toward compliance may appear to be a slow trickle, except for the fact that these customers usually represent much more than $5 million each in promotional products spend. Rest assured, the market is shifting. I've attended distributor events where there is more than $50 million in end-buyer spend in the room, and they're all paying attention to compliance. These end buyers have spent the past two years educating themselves on compliance requirements, and they are building a game plan to ensure their brands are protected from this point forward.
If you are talking to distributors that sell to this type of clientele, you know they have been paying attention, too. These distributors have also educated themselves on compliance programs, and they have come to the conclusion that their supplier partners are a critical piece of the solution that enables them to meet client expectations. They recognize that they have neither the expertise nor the resources to manage every product category they sell to their customers, and they must rely on their supplier partners to provide product safety and compliance to them.
Distributors are raising the bar and expectations for the suppliers with whom they choose to do business. They are starting to understand what it means to have a comprehensive, proactive compliance program, and their purchases are moving toward those suppliers that can deliver.
If you are a supplier that is objectively watching the signs, you have seen and heard enough evidence to know compliance programs are not a fad or a short-term trend. You have added up the total volume from distributors that are asking you about your compliance program, testing or factory audits, and you know there is much more than $2 billion of spend coming from distributors that are paying close attention to compliance.
Additionally, you are seeing new distributors asking about your compliance efforts every week or two and realize that end-buyers are driving these requests. It's apparent: The genie is out of the bottle. You know the demand for compliance is building rather than ebbing. You are either being rewarded for being an early adopter, or you are escalating your efforts to catch up and be in a position to meet the growing demand.
Most certainly, if you do not have a comprehensive compliance solution, you are already losing market share—and the pace is accelerating. You're not being invited into the conversation, and you can't close the deal if you don't have a seat at the table.
Brent Stone is executive director - operations for Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the promotional products industry's only independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping companies provide safe products. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Stone has more than 25 years of in-depth supply chain management experience with extensive expertise in process design, development, improvement and management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.qcalliance.org for more information.