Dear Canadian Pink Room Ladies,
First, please let me introduce myselfâ€¦ I am the HER to the HIM that has been referred to in your ponderings on the PR. Names are: Loretta and Doug Fulton. A little background info â€“ I started our small, family run business as a SAHM in 2003 representing a few small, unique product lines in Western Canada. I had left the corporate world with the intention of staying home with our two young girls. Dougâ€™s career took a turn in 2005 and we decided that we would join forces and put our joint efforts into an expanded business. Just as many start up companies do (Joe and Rachelle share this experience) we mortgaged our house to start this business, and have put everything we own on the line to make it work.
We started looking for premium US brands that we could introduce to the Canadian market, and eventually make more readily available across the country by importing them directly into Canada. JuJuBe was the first company that we aligned with. We love JuJuBe â€“ both the products and more importantly, the people - and share the same passion and vision to do everything possible to make JuJuBe the strong brand that it has every potential of being, in the market that we have responsibility for - Canada. When we started, we had a handful of retail accounts in Canada. Today, we ship to just over 200 retailers across the country.
Our strategy aligns with JuJuBeâ€™s strategy â€“ the fastest, most effective way to reach the largest number of consumers is through developing strong partnerships with independent boutiques in all areas of the country. As Joe has pointed out, we do approximately 22 wholesale tradeshows per year and travel extensively (so much for being a SAHM!!). We invest heavily in advertising, and are constantly working to expand the presence of our brands across Canada (did you know that it is 5514KMâ€™s across the country??!). Independent boutique owners are very hard working people who are constantly trying to bring the best in the baby market to their discerning customer. They typically carry upwards of 300 different, unique lines in their stores. They are very well informed people, and although it may not seem like it to you when you question them about your favourite new design, they do their level best to stay ahead of new products.
Our Canadian market is a very small fraction of the US market â€“ approximately 1/10th. We do not have the sheer number of stores in Canada, that are available to the US mamas. Our experience over the last 5 years, has also shown us that even for the very best e-tailers with megabucks to throw at advertising, SEO, and inventory, e-comm in Canada is extremely difficult and not for the feint hearted. One start-up told me that they were investing $250,000 in inventory alone â€“ that does not include the cost of their ecommerce website development, or marketing efforts. This represents a HUGE investment that will hopefully pay off, but will take a long time and a lot of patience, just because of the numbers game.
Over the last five years, we have become accustomed to receiving on average five inquiries per week (please think about how many inquiries that amounts to in a year) from well intentioned people looking to start up an online only business selling baby goods in Canada. Early on, we endeavoured to respond with as much information as possible, but over time have become aware that our limited time and resource is better spent supporting our core business and developing our retail accounts. Answering these inquiries is extremely time consuming, and takes focus away from ensuring that we are keeping on top of our inventory, etc. In each case where we have been criticised for our response on the PR, Doug responded with an open invitation including our toll free number, and his cell phone number. He has never received any phone calls.
Two of our core principles for all of the lines that we represent and distribute in Canada, are:
- the ENTIRE line that is available to us to import, IS available to the Canadian consumer. Every item that is on the available to ship list, is either in our warehouse, or is on a purchase order to ship as soon as it is available to us from JuJuBe (we even have CheckaBeâ€™s in stock!!). It is worth noting that inventory both at JuJuBeâ€™s warehouse and ours is driven by supply and demand, and in both cases, there is not an infinite supply â€“ sometimes, we too have to wait ïŒ
- The price that our Canadian consumers pay is as close to the US price as possible. It is not uncommon for pricing of Canadian goods to be considerable higher in Canada than in the US, due to the importation duties and fees that goods coming into Canada, are subject to. We cut our margins to ensure that our pricing is as close to the US pricing as possible.
I assure you that we do EVERYTHING we can to make sure that the border is as transparent as possible to our market.
Letâ€™s look at some other numbersâ€¦ I donâ€™t have to tell you that our wonderful friends at JuJuBe have done a FABULOUS job of designing a large number of beloved prints in an array of bag styles that would meet the needs of any mama â€“ newbie or experienced hand. On the last availability report that we received yesterday, there are 104 different bags in different prints. Not to mention the 167 accessory pieces. The bags retail in Canada for an average price of $150. I will leave the math to youâ€¦ how much would it cost to carry just 1 of each bag, and 1 of each accessory, and how many square feet would it take to do justice to displaying all of that fabulous product?!
Our stores do their best to carry a good selection of JuJuBe. However, there are only so many dollars to go round, and we are constantly negotiating for more of their dollars, and more real estate in their store. As you are likely aware, boutiques tend to be small (they are not big-box stores!) and there is only so much space, and so many dollars. They also have to watch their bottom line, and it is not feasible for them (or for us, for that matter) to ship out a single product. They have to consolidate orders to make their shipping worth while (no free shipping in the wholesale world!) â€“ and that may seem to be a long delay, to you the consumer.
Soâ€¦ if you have read this far, I thank you for your patience! We have read through all of your concerns, and are deeply saddened by the negativity that exists out there, that Rachelle and Joe have kindly dealt with on our behalf. We want to do whatever we can to turn that around. To that end, we are putting in place the following:
- A thread on the PR that I will respond to. I have to admit that it is not possible for me to keep up with all of the threads, so I need your help to consolidate your queries in one place.
- As Joe has mentioned, we are working on a Canadian version of ShopJJB with fulfilment and shipping from our warehouse â€“ therefore, we have already paid the duty, brokerage and associated importation costs. A HUGE thank you to JJB for putting the current site into operation! We ask for your patience as we put this in place.
- In the interim, if you have already placed group orders with one of our retailers, please let me know (it looks like Vicky has one running with Lorena). I will coordinate those orders with the retailer.
- If you have a special request, I invite you to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
o Because our core business is to support our retailers, our staff are only armed with wholesale trade information and that is what our Customer Service department is geared to deal with. We will put a separate consumer customer service direct line in place, and ask for your patience while we get that set up.
o Up to now, we have been registered to sell to wholesale trade customers only. With the implementation of the HST (Happy Canada Day!!) we are now in a position to sell direct to the consumer. Our first response will still be to direct you to a retailer that is close to you so that you have the opportunity to touch and feel your JuJuBe! However, we will fulfil your order for you, if there isnâ€™t a store nearby, or your local baby store can not bring it in for you for some reason.
Thank you for your patience and for your PASSION! We all LOOOOVVVEE JuJuBeâ€¦ thatâ€™s the bottom line. Letâ€™s do everything we can to work together in a positive way to build the brand!
Happy Canada Dayâ€¦
Loretta and Doug