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a person or company that sells goods wholesale is a middleman that buys its merchandise from a third party supplier and resells the merchandise to retail businesses or the end consumer. A wholesaler normally does not sell to other wholesalers.
Whether a firm be a one person operation or one that employs thousands of people and generates billions in sales, all are in business to serve the needs of markets. In order to do this, these firms must be assured that their products are distributed to their intended markets. Most producing and manufacturing firms are not in a favorable position to perform all the tasks that would be necessary to distribute their products directly to their final user markets. In many instances, it is the expertise and availability of other channel institutions that make it possible for a producer/manufacturer to even participate in a particular market. Other channel members can be useful to the producer in designing the product, packaging it, pricing it, promoting it, and distributing it through the most effective channels.
Channel choice begins with two questions: to whom shall we sell this merchandise immediately? And, who are our ultimate users and buyers? The immediate and ultimate customers may be identical or quite separate, depending on the type of product, functions performed in the channel, and location in the channel. There is a need to know what the customer needs, where they buy, when they buy, why they buy from certain outlets, and how they buy. It is best that we first identify the traits of the ultimate user, since the results of this evaluation might determine the other channel institutions we would use to meet these needs. For example, the buying characteristics of the purchaser of a high-end electronics device might be as follows:
Purchased only from a well-established, reputable dealer.
Purchased only after considerable shopping to compare prices and merchandise characteristics.
Purchaser willing to go to some inconvenience (time and distance) to locate the most acceptable brand.
Purchased only after extended conversations involving all interested parties - including dealer, users, and purchasers.
Purchase may be postponed.
Purchased only from a dealer equipped to render prompt and reasonable product service.
Knowing the buying specifications of consumers, the channel planner can decide on the type or types of wholesaler and/or retailer through which a product should be sold. This requires that a manufacturer contemplating distribution through particular types of retailers become intimately familiar with the precise location and performance characteristics of those being considered.
In much the same way that buying specifications of ultimate users are determined, the manufacturers must also discover buying specifications of resellers. Of particular importance is the question, "from whom do my retail outlets prefer to buy? " The answer to this question determines the type of wholesaler - if any - that the manufacturer should use. Although many retailers prefer to buy directly from the manufacturers, this is not always the case. Often, the exchange requirements of manufacturers - e.g., infrequent visits, large order requirements, and stringent credit terms - are the opposite of those desired by retailers. Such retailers would rather buy from local distributors who have lenient credit terms and offer a wide assortment of merchandise.
Channel choice is also greatly influenced by channel objectives. Channel objectives are based on the requirements of the purchasers and users, the overall marketing strategy, and the long-run goals of the corporation. In cases when a company is just getting started, or an older company is trying to carve out a new market niche, the channel objectives may be the dominant force on channel choice. The following areas encompass the major categories of channel objectives:
Growth in sales - by reaching new markets and/or increasing sales in existing markets.
Maintenance or improvement of market share - educate or assist channel components in their efforts to increase the amount of product they handle.
Achieve a pattern of distribution - structure the channel in order to achieve certain time, place, and form utilities.
Create an efficient channel - improve channel performance by modifying various flow mechanisms.
After the distribution objectives are set, it is appropriate to determine the specific distribution tasks or functions to be performed in that channel system. The channel manager must be very specific in describing the tasks, and must define how these tasks will change depending upon the situation. An ability to do this requires the channel manager to evaluate all phases of the distribution network. Tasks must be identified fully, and costs must be assigned to these tasks.
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