Supermarket parts supplier racks up multichannel B2B sales

Supermarket Parts Warehouse reports rapid growth as it builds out its strategy of letting customers buy as they choose through paper catalogs, sales reps and e-commerce.

Paul Demery

Distributor Supermarket Parts Warehouse reports a five-fold increase in sales since 2006, with 2013 up 25% from the prior year. “We’ve seen extreme growth year after year,” vice president Michael Hartman says.

The Mountain Dale, NY, company distributes some 1600 products used to operate supermarkets and convenience stores, ranging from walk-in cooler door handles and merchandise display racks to plumbing fixtures and electronic fan motors. The privately held company, which launched in1996, has about 20 employees. It doesn’t report sales figures.

Helping to maintain growth, Hartman says, is the company’s strategy of letting its customers shop in several ways: paper catalogs, sales reps and e-commerce, including a mobile commerce site. The company’s independent sales reps use the desktop e-commerce site, and mobile site on smartphones and tablets, as sales tools when dealing with customers.

Hartman notes that many of the company’s customers like to shop through a particular channel rather than use multiple channels. “Some are old school and won’t use the web, only phone and fax,” he says.

Nonetheless, Supermarket Parts Warehouse is continuing to improve its e-commerce site, SMPW.com, for those that prefer to shop online. Designed and built by web development firm Net2Solutions on an e-commerce platform from Loaded Commerce LLC, the site is customized so that it displays negotiated pricing for contract customers.

The company is now working on a new feature that will let executives in client supermarket and convenience store chains select what information the web site will display to particular employees and outside contractors, Hartman says.

For example, a client’s authorized headquarters employees will be able to log on to SMPW.com to view and purchase items among a select group of products based on the needs of his department; store managers at each retail location will be able to log on to purchase products with maximum spending levels approved for their particular store; and contractors, such as companies that supply and maintain in-store refrigeration units, will log on to SMPW.com to order products at prices approved for the locations they service. “This saves the buyers time and provides our clients more control over spending,” Hartman  says.

In each of these cases, the personnel logging on to SMPW.com will also see web pages co-branded with the client store chain’s logo as well as SMPW.com’s logo, to assure them they are shopping on approved web pages, Hartman says.

Another feature in the works is an interactive order form, which frees buyers from having to always know the item number of a part they want to order. Instead, buyers can enter such information as brand, size and color of the desired product; the software then automatically generates the pertinent part number for placing the order.

Loaded Commerce provides open-source software, which means users can access the software code for customizing web sites. The software comes in a free edition, which SMPW initially deployed, and a Pro version that SMPW is now using. Pricing for the Pro version ranges from $19 per month for an on-demand version accessible by three administrative users and hosted by Loaded Commerce, to a one-time fee of $549, plus $80 in annual maintenance fees, for an unlimited number of administrative uers, according to Loaded Commerce’s web site.

Loaded Commerce is an outgrowth of CRE Loaded, an e-commerce software platform that was relaunched in 2012 as Loaded Commerce by Salvatore Iozzia, the founder of CRE Loaded. Among further improvements to the Loaded Commerce platform, Iozzia says, is a more sophisticated workflow system for routing purchases for authorization. For now, he adds, Loaded Commerce can group orders into three segments: pending, approved and rejected.

Iozzia says he has positioned the free version of Loaded Commerce to compete with the free Community Edition of Magento, which is available through the eBay Enterprise division of eBay Inc. He adds that the Pro version of Loaded Commerce was designed to compete with PrestaShop, which is also an open-source platform.

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