What’s Up With All Of The Backorders?

Every now and again I feel the need to rant… last week it was about things that customers do to upset us… and this week it is about backorders. I think to better understand what back orders are all about… we need to first look at it from a retailer’s point of view…

Every fall (and sometimes early spring) all the golf manufacturers come to retailers like myself and ask us to book new products for the next year. The manufacturers like to have an idea of how much equipment they need to make to fill the upcoming demand. Makes sense to me. Then… come spring… the new products arrive in stores and everyone is happy. If only it were so easy.

I think the biggest problem as of late is that retailers are leery to order a bunch of products in the fall when we know that everything will be different in April. We wait until spring and get an idea of what products are available and then place our orders. The manufacturers haven’t budgeted enough product because of the lower fall bookings and then all of a sudden they can’t keep up to the demand. And the backorder is born.

Let’s look at an example of why we as retailers don’t book as much. Back in September when we went to do our Callaway booking, this year’s line of drivers was still up in the air. We had kind of heard about the Big Bertha 454, we expected that the Great Big Bertha II was going to be changed but we had no idea that there would be a new Fusion. So off we went… booking a lot of Fusions… thinking that it would be a strong club for 2005. The Fusion went way down in price early this year (before our spring stuff arrived) and by the time we got our order of Fusions, we knew the FT-3 was on it’s way in June. So now we’re stuck with a bunch of discontinued clubs… how do you think we will approach the booking this fall? We’ll go really, really light and then put a big order together in the spring when we know what the new products will be. If a bunch of retailers do the same thing, Callaway won’t have enough product to meet the demand in the spring. Then let the backorders begin.

Everything seems to be backordered this year and this is probably the worst I have ever seen it. Callaway Big Bertha 454 driver heads, Cobra steel shafts, Mizuno rifle shafts, Odyssey White Steel putters (I can’t even get an expected ship date on those yet), anything Bridgestone and many TaylorMade Rescue Mid clubs are all on backorder and this is just the tip of the iceberg! It makes it hard to stock a shop and sell product when you can’t get anything.

Backorders hurt us all. Manufacturers can’t sell product that they don’t have, retailers can’t provide decent service to their customers when they can’t get anything (and we look like jerks when we have to tell a customer that they can’t have their new driver for two months), and customers just get frustrated and end up not spending money (not a good thing!). I hate having my customers wait weeks and months on end for products and knowing that there isn’t anything I can do about it.

So how can we fix the problem? Manufacturers need to limit their new products. I remember when companies used to have their one line that lasted all year. Now it seems that they have about three or four lines per year. Give us retailers a year-long map of what is coming… “Here are our drivers for the year, here are our irons for the year… as so on”. Lets us order with confidence, knowing that the products we bring in will be around for the whole year. Let us budget our money to make sure that we can fill our shops and bring in stuff that people want… don’t go and change all of your costs in January after we have done all of our ordering. Make it easy on us and we’ll gladly place our full orders in the fall… then you can have lots of time to make sure that you have enough product to get through the busy times. Don’t lie to retailers on the phone… if you don’t have something… just tell us. Then we can give our customers a heads up and an idea of when they can expect something. If you don’t know when something is available… just tell us. Retailers can do their part too. Once there is some confidence in product lines, then order more and let manufacturers know what kind of demand to expect. Customers can’t really do much to help… just be understanding when we tell you that you can’t have your new club tomorrow… or next week… or next month.

The term “backorder” is like a swear around my shop… and unfortunately we have been swearing a lot this year! I have had a few emails from other people in the business and they are saying the same thing. Something needs to change and change fast. Otherwise we could be in for a rough year… not because consumer demand isn’t there but because there is nothing there to fill the demand.

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