Courtesy Counts

Carole Sloan, December 15, 2008

For virtually all of us in business, what is happening here and around the world is nothing like anyone has experienced.

And the confusion about how to deal with it at every level — from individual governments to localities to financial institutions, businesses and consumers — is exacerbating the situation.

In retailing, which depends heavily on relationships between buyers and sellers, the environment has become virtually poisonous. Survival is the name of the game, and unfortunately some retailers are using tactics that make the typical ones like markdown money, return to vendor, opening store discounts, color changes and the like seem almost like a kindergarten exercise.

As the situations have worsened over recent weeks, the desperation at too many retailing organizations is evident by the behavior and attitudes of executives up and down the ranking ladder.

And with the internet and e-mail as a primary means of communication in today's business world, there has been an explosion of veiled and unveiled business threats, unprofessional approaches to business situations, and just plain rudeness in e-mails sent from buyers to sellers.

In face-to-face scenarios, there are reports of more than heated exchanges that are in some measure stress related – and virtually unacceptable in a normal, competitive environment.

As we move through the holiday season and get ready for the first of a series of back-to-back markets in the home textiles world almost immediately after the New Year, it would be a good time to reflect on the techniques of doing business in this rapidly changing world.

Taking a supplier apart via e-mail is a permanent record, no matter what the delete key does on the sender's part. And even worse, that message can be distributed far and wide by the aggrieved recipient. It's definitely happening already.

These are uncharted waters we're all traveling in, but survival will depend not on how aggressively one can deal with a supplier or buyer, but how effective the relationship will be.

Hoping for a more civil approach to business in a continuing difficult environment in the future, have a happy New Year.

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