This article first appeared in the November/December issue of Industrial Distribution. To view it in the original format, please click here.
Since the introduction of the category 20 years ago, hook & loop fasteners have become an important part of many industrial distributors’ product offering. As the category continues to grow, so has the demand for unique hook & loop cable ties, cinching straps, and cut-to-length tapes.
The term “hook & loop” speaks to numerous fastening solutions and for the purposes of this piece, we are focusing solely on the distinct niche of hook & loop products known as hook & loop cable ties, straps, and back-to-back style tapes. Two examples of these types of product lines are SPEEDWRAP® and VELCRO® brand hook & loop fasteners.
Because everyone understands, for example, the simplicity of a hook & loop tie, PM’s (Product Managers) can underestimate the complexity of related hook & loop fasteners. These merchandisers often fail to ask critical question of their prospective hook & loop fastener supplier(s).
If you are considering adding a line of hook & loop ties, straps, or tapes or you want to ensure your product offering and supplier partnership has you positioned properly, here’s what you want to know.
1. Target customers?
With each market comes a unique set of hook & loop fasteners. For example, “integrators” prefer back-to-back style, hook & loop cable ties because they are gentle on wires and come in a variety of colors. These installers also need mounting” solutions to route cords in closets. Maintenance, repair, and operation customers require heavier duty straps that “cinch down” on large bundles of cables or hoses. Serving the marine industry? You need polyester materials. And within just these three market examples, tons of lengths, widths, colors, and materials offerings exist.
Many hook & loop manufacturers specialize in certain products or markets, so you want to ensure you are meeting with the one(s) that are experienced with customers you are targeting.
2. Look at your competitor’s product offering last.
In today’s economic environment, most Industrial Distributors are operating with a leaner staff. Since 2008, many PM’s are overwhelmed and can be forced to cut corners. For example, if the PM is adding a new line of hook & loop ties and straps, they tend to look primarily at their competitors. If you were short on time, wouldn’t you? As a result, they ask the potential supplier to quote on those items and little else. This can be a huge mistake, especially with this product category.
Just like your company, your competitor may run lean, and their merchandisers may only evaluate a product category once every three years. When it comes to hook & loop fasteners, three years are like dog years! If your competitor added or last evaluated their line of hook & loop products three years ago, there might be 20 new products that are better sellers or have replaced them.
For example, your competitor might be selling black fire retardant hook & loop ties, when recently the industry has gravitated to cranberry as the default color for FR ties and Plenum Rated ties. Copy your competitor and you are selling yesterday’s news!
3. Ask the supplier: What challenges will we encounter, post-product launch?
I humbly submit to you that this is the number one question PM’s overlook when talking to their suppliers: “What products do you think we need, why, and what challenges will my company encounter after we start selling them?” That’s a million dollar question.
I should also point out that once you stock these items in this size, in black, a big customer will call and ask for that item in red. The request for unique or non-stocked items is going to be your top challenge — but also one the best opportunities. Once you force this evaluation process to focus down stream, the real important factors are exposed. For example, how is your prospective supplier going to help you service those non-stocked or NIC items? Do they manufacture or are they merely reselling these items to you? How quickly can they turn around your customer’s request? Are they geographically desirable? Do they offer drop-shipments and in a confidential manner? Are their products UL rated and are they ISO Certified?
Yes, ask your standard supplier evaluation questions about the sale and product opportunity, profitability, specs, and support. But when it comes to this niche of hook and loop fasteners for cord, cable, and hose management, failing to ask the aforementioned three questions can cause problems for your customers, your buyers, and your customer service department. A truly qualified hook and loop fastener manufacturer can ensure you are positioned to succeed for years to come.
Steven Pope has been the owner and Vice President of Speedtech International, Inc for over 12 years. Speedtech helped pioneer the development of hook & loop cable management as a product category and is the manufacturer of the SPEEDWRAP® line of hook and loop products. Questions? Email steve at email@example.com.