Thursday, February 26, 2009

The New 2009 Costless Express Catalogue!

Steve Martin in The JerkOne of my all time favourite movies - Steve Martin in The Jerk.
That's how we felt today when we FINALLY received our 2009 catalogues from the printers. We delayed printing the catalogue in December, because of all the price changes suppliers had waiting for January 2009. I decided it was best to hold production and have a more accurately priced catalogue.
I can easily say our 2009 catalogue is the best yet. Some quick highlights are:
  • Cool finger pointing cover!
  • Free Starbucks Gift Cards - Page A5
  • 2009 Costless Express CatalogueA welcome letter from me - Page A6 (My kids' eyes almost popped out seeing me in the catalogue: "You're famous, Daddy!")
  • Lots of Eco Products - See Page A7
  • New Toner Club saves you 20% off copy paper - Page A8
  • New super low water prices - Page A21
  • New Keurig and Flavia Coffee Machines - Pages A22-A23
  • Seattle's Best and Ethical Bean Coffee! - Pages A26-A27
  • All Island Farms Dairy ("So long!" to our last unreliable dairy supplier) - Page A40
  • FRUIT EXPRESS check it out - Page A45
  • Two Bite Party Trays and muffins - YUM! - Pages A47, A48, A69
  • Wally Biscotti - to die for! - Page A67
  • Big Bags of Chips - you asked for it. - Pages A72-A76
  • Bulk Candy - another request - Page A79
  • Recycled Paper products at new lower prices - Pages A86 - A92
  • Cups and Cutlery made out of PLANTS! - Pages A92 + A95
  • Lots of new Eco Cleaning Products - Pages A102-A111
  • Thousands of Recycled Office Supplies - all pages
  • Super Low Prices on House Brand SPARCO office supplies - all pages
  • Our largest selection of writing instruments ever - pages 749-834
  • Super low prices on Recycled Toners "Elite" House Brand - Pages 855-856
You will automatically get a new Costless Express 2009 catalogue for free on your next order. We also have our drivers delivering them as fast as possible. If you just can't wait, like Steve Martin, then give us a shout, and we will hand deliver one to you ASAP.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just My Opinion

I'm feeling a bit sad lately about what I think the economy has driven some competitors to reduce themselves to.
Yesterday I wrote about a new company selling office supplies in Vancouver, called E. Madill from Nanaimo BC. Recently they sent out a price sheet to random businesses in downtown Vancouver boasting they were "The Cheapest!" and guaranteeing "We beat all competitors prices" on their catalogue cover. Then last week I had a complaint from a good customer about them.
Now I have been in business for 20 years, and have seen many competitors, including Staples, Corporate Express and Office Depot, come to Vancouver, so I'm OK with competition. I support small business, and believe there's room for everyone in the marketplace, especially when it comes to other local independent stationers like Mills Basics (good job on beating out the big guys and being the official office supplier to the Olympics BTW). So when a small office supply company resorts to big statements like E. Madill has, it sets a bad tone for what a local office supplier should act like.
My good customer of 12 years called to let me know she had a sales person from E. Madill drop off a catalogue. She said she kindly told them she was not interested and had a great relationship with Costless Express. Since that day E. Madill had called her repeatedly, to the point she say is almost harassment. She said they keep telling her they will under cut anyone's prices by 10% and sent a HOT SHEET showcasing their low low prices on the top selling items. This sheet was faxed over to me by her, and we used it in our recent cost comparison.
What I found is the prices on their top selling items were not as competitive as Costless Express, and in most cases not even as low as Staples (ask for the comparison if you would like to see). Second was that many other popular items not on their HOT SHEET but on their website were priced exceptionally high in comparison to the average market price (we priced out 700 items). I can only assume that they plan to win customers by marketing they are the cheapest, undercut a few items to appease unsuspecting customers, and then make it all back and then some on the other items when the customer isn't looking.
I have known the owner of E. Madill (Ehren Madill) for a few years now. I see him a few times each year at industry trade shows, and he is about my age - 40, with a young family. So I gave him a ring. What I tried to mentioned to him was how his sales people used tactics that left a negative impression on customers. Also, I explained, independent stationers usually support each other. Hey, all is fair in yadda yadda... but if Costless were to go into battle over a customer, it would be against Staples or G&T, not trash-talking an independent like Mills. Why fight against another local business, when it's Staples selling a billion dollars each year in Canada?
While Ehren and I chatted, he said he lets his sales people win business however they see fit. No prisoners. They were on commission, and as long as they brought in the sales, he was fine with how they did it.
Like I said, I'm feeling a bit sad that this is the service a local independent office products supplier has been reduced to. Good luck, Ehren.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Who Has The Best Prices?

Who has the best prices on all office supplies in Vancouver? Is it Costless Express, the big American giants like Staples or Grand & Toy, or other local independent stationers?
(Drum roll)... None of the above!
Let me explain.
There are over 25,000 items in our catalogue, and I would be hard pressed to tell you Costless Express has the best price on every single item every single day. The same is true for all our competition. No one company has the best price on EVERYTHING all the time (although some competitors' marketing would seem to differ). How do I know? We check.
Each quarter at Costless Express, we research each competitor and look at their sell prices on the top few hundred items (sometimes up to 500 items). That's all most offices ever buy; the top few hundred items, like file folders, sticky notes, pens, staples, copy paper and the like. These are the items where a customer wants to know their office supply company is saving them money. After the top items are out of the way, a customer wants to know pricing is competitive on the remaining 24,800ish items and if they happen to find it at a lower price somewhere else - that their supplier will beat the price. Costless Express and most other competitors offer a "we will beat anyone's price" policy, but the customer may need to do a bit of leg work first to find the lower "delivered" price. Possibly they saw it on special somewhere else.
So I bet you want to know how we stacked up to the mighty STAPLES on price. How about 42.9% cheaper on the top 130 items!
How about against a small company from Vancouver Island called E. Madill Office Supply? 39.7% cheaper on the top 130 items!
If you would like to see the side by side comparison in an excel file, please call your Fantastic Account Manager and they will email you a copy.
On a side note about Grand and Toy - I recently won a nice sized account away from them by doing a cost analysis of their purchases and comparing the prices to our own. What I found was this customer received a 58% discount on the catalogue items not marked NET (if it is a NET item, the G&T discount does not apply). The customer had given me his web user name and password so I could collect the data in real time.
When I met with him, I said I could save him 10% in three words. DON'T LOG IN!
If he were to just use the street prices online from G&T, he would have been farther ahead than with his discount. Don't ask me why G&T did this, but I want to offer a big THANKS to them for a nice new customer.
To wrap this up, I guess what I'm saying is I try to offer our customers a sharp price on the items that matter most and fair prices on everything else. No games or bait and switch like some other competitors seem to try. Costless Express customers save the most and get the best prices everyday.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inventory Blowout Sale!

Have you seen our latest emails and the front of our website? We have our yearly INVENTORY BLOW-OUT SALE on right now. Get the deals while they last!
Each year at about this time, it's "out with the old and in with the new" when it comes to our inventory. We need to make room for all the new and exciting products that were added to the 2009 catalogue, so we deeply discount the remaining stock that didn't make it. I know it sounds like some cheesy line from a furniture commercial: "Everything Must Go, Blah Blah Blah!" But it's true, we only have so much space so... Ahhhh, everything must GO! Some items just changed in pack size or flavour, while others just didn't make the cut due to slow sales. Whatever the case, the customer gets a great chance to pick up some hot deals. We update the Blow-out Sheet daily with what's sold out and what new items have been added. The info is always as fresh as we can make it.
We also added a new section at the top of the sheet, and I wanted to get some feedback from you on if you like it. We added items where the "Best By" date is close or at expiry. Think of it as our scratch and dent sale, in a way. These items like Starbucks coffee have very short dates (too short, in my opinion) and sometimes we have to pull the items off our shelves, since we promise customers a reasonable amount of time on any Best By date. The products are absolutely fine to consume - it really is just the manufacturer setting short dates to help boost sales volume, in my humble opinion.
Here's the question: Would you take a deep discount on an item, if the date was close or at expiry? To be clear, I'm talking about items in tin cans or foil pouches, not week's old nasty bread or chips. Items are JUST near or at expiry, and NOT months over date.
Seems part of my question has been answered, because the items are selling like hot cakes. Starbucks Coffee regular $54.99 - clearance $29.99 (Expires February and March 2009), now there's a deal!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heart-y Foods

If you want points for being a cook and creative with your sweetheart or coworkers, simply make them a meal or a snack for Valentine's Day. And then carve it into a heart. It's as easy as heart-shaped eggs, pizza, pasta or a PB&J. (Or as complicated as the amazing ventricled cupcakes pictured.)

Inspirational heart-shaped food photos are here from Threadbanger. Ladies will like the last picture on the site as you scroll down. Awwwwwww.

Eat your heart out.

And speaking of heart-y foods, since it's American Heart Health Month (not sure if there is a Canadian one, I guess I'll Google later) here are 25 foods that are good for your ticker , whether it's pulsing with love for a certain valentine or not.



Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stop Using Staples!

You place a stapler over a pile of paper that needs to be stapled, and as soon as you press on the stapler, nothing comes out. While you were expecting to organize your document, you have to abort your plan because you just ran out of staples.
Introducing the stapler that does not use staples. This invention has been around a quite some time, but not a lot of people understand the magic behind this.
There a few models of stapleless staplers out in the market nowadays, but this model in particular punches a whole onto your stack of paper, it then folds and unlike most models out there, nicely tucks the flap into the paper itself. Smart, huh? Although the trick is pretty nifty, it works only on a stack of 5 to 7 pieces of paper, but again, if you have a stack of uncountable amount of paper that you want to bind together, you might as well use a 3-ring binder or use a hot glue gun to make a book out of it, right?