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Topic: Where do tents come from?, The internet middleman< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 9:43 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So you're looking for a tent and you're tired of shipping tents that don't work out back 3000 miles to the other side of the country. You look for a retailer close to home and you find one that's a couple of days away by UPS. You're delighted when you realize that the price of the tent is about half what the manufacturer---located half a continent away---wants to charge you.

And wow, this internet retailer is HUGE. They list thousands upon thousands of items from dozens of manufacturers. Imagine the size of that warehouse! They must have a hundred employees!

PLUS when you call them you're connected directly with the president! Wow, this company must really value its customers, to let you talk to the president.

So far so good. There's a small fee on your invoice that reads something like "Maufacturer's Processing Fee." Wonder what that could mean? A 2nd red flag is raised when the estimated shipping time is 7 business days, from a couple of states away. Hmm . . .

It all becomes clear when the UPS tracking number reveals that the tent is being shipped from the state where the manufacturer is located. You realize that this internet retailer probably doesn't have any warehouse at all and probably has fewer than ten employees. He is nothing more than a middleman. He answers the phone, takes your order, and sends it to the manufacturer. He's never seen this tent you're ordering. How could he, with no warehouse and a "virtual inventory" of thousands of products? Your tent is just a product on a spec sheet to the middleman. To the manufacturer, the middleman is nothing more than an order taker.

I'm not saying this system is wrong. It's an efficient way of moving goods, as long as the middleman doesn't rip you off in some way.

This post might incite a flurry of "buy local" replies. That's fine, but my position on this is that every entity in the market today needs to deal with the reality of the high efficiency of internet middlemen who have virtually no expenses---you could run this business out of your kitchen--- and minimal time put into each sale, and are willing to accept a very small profit margin per sale.

Whether this system works will become clear when the tent arrives at your door. On time? Correct item? Any damage? Credit card not hacked? Return policy if you don't like it? With such a low profit, the internet retailer can't afford to cover your return shipping costs, refund your money after you've used an item, etc. You buy it, you keep it, unless it's in perfect resalable condition.

The other side of the retail coin: Yesterday REI sent me, via free two-day shipping, a replacement for a defective mattress, even before I sent back the original. That's REI service.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:22 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

When a momma tent and a daddy tent love each other very much, sometimes they...oh wait, I don't think that's exactly what you were asking :D

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:40 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It's called drop shipping.

How much a manufacturer does it varies. Some don't require the merchant to carry any inventory, some require a minimum amount of buy in from the merchant, some will do it for an additional fee, some don't do it at all.

To flip the idea around: when you click on the "buy" button on some (many, actually most...) manufacturer sites, you go to a third party that actually does the transactions for multiple manufacturers.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:51 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Come on TT, where do you think they come from?

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 11:13 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nice hat, Ray.

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 6:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Nov. 01 2012, 10:40 am)
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To flip the idea around: when you click on the "buy" button on some (many, actually most...) manufacturer sites, you go to a third party that actually does the transactions for multiple manufacturers.

So one of these days we're going to find out that all these tents come from the same factory in China and we're just going to e-mail our order to China and the tent is going to cost $30 instead of $300. All those middle folks are going to be eliminated.

How about a made-to-order tent that doesn't even involve any human beings? You click on a bunch of boxes to select your material, size, shape, etc. and the tent is made by  a CNC machine in China, packed up by a robot, and mailed off to you.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 7:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yep

Ray that was what I was thinking from the title.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 8:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tents come from our desire to go out in the wild and test our mettle

except for me .
To avoid getting cold,wet and lost I just set them up in my bedroom.
This is me "camping" before my coffee break 10 minutes ago...
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 8:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What if the middleman throws in a lifetime warranty for free? Just because someone doesn't make an item doesn't mean they cannot provide value.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 8:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great photo, Franco. Are you obsessed enough to actually sleep in a tent inside your house? I do that. Love it.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 8:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(dayhiker9 @ Nov. 01 2012, 6:23 pm)
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Yep

Ray that was what I was thinking from the title.

Me too.


(TrailTramper @ Nov. 01 2012, 5:15 pm)
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How about a made-to-order tent that doesn't even involve any human beings? You click on a bunch of boxes to select your material, size, shape, etc. and the tent is made by  a CNC machine in China, packed up by a robot, and mailed off to you.

This sounds like just the ticket. Have you ever heard the term “splime”? You know, “cradle to cradle” machine tracking and assembly/re-assembly/manufacture? “Printed” manufacturing of custom goods?

And I don’t mean, “a colony of intense lyrical metaphors usually in a gooey consistency”.

(Nice “package”, Franco. Can we meet?)
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 9:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(pastywhite @ Nov. 01 2012, 8:09 pm)
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What if the middleman throws in a lifetime warranty for free? Just because someone doesn't make an item doesn't mean they cannot provide value.

Cool. Who do you know that does that, among these internet retailers?

You're right, and that was sort of my point. REI, LL Bean, Cabela's etc. don't make their own tents. In fact, who does? Is it only the little guys?
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 9:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Gabby @ Nov. 01 2012, 8:48 pm)
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(Nice “package”, Franco. Can we meet?)

Get a room!.......................or tent.   :;):


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 9:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great photo, Franco. Are you obsessed enough to actually sleep in a tent inside your house? I do that. Love it.

I do sleep in them in my backyard.

I was having a coffee and still had the Photobucket page with that shot on open  and that is why I posted that shot.
I was actually showing a guy in a local forum the available room inside a Scarp2 fly with a Scarp 1 inner ...
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 9:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

OK, now that I know that my entire original post could have been summarized in two words---drop shipping, thank you obchristo---there's something I don't understand. Wouldn't it be more profitable for a company like Alps Mountaineering to sell their tents directly to consumers at reasonable prices, instead of selling through these internet retailers?

It almost seems like the ridiculously inflated MSRP is an intentional obstacle to dissuade me from buying from Alps. What purpose could that possibly serve?

For me as a consumer, it would always be advantageous to buy directly from the manufacturer, for the best service. What's the advantage to Alps of having these internet retailers?

I have the impression that Alps is a tiny company. Maybe using drop shipping allows them to keep their employee numbers very low.

Also, since internet retailers don't disclose that they're using drop shipping, how can consumers compare them? We don't have a clue whether they have a warehouse or not. I asked a lot of questions when I ordered my Alps tent to get at the nature of the business, but it was not disclosed and I only realized what was up when I saw the address at UPS.

I'm not disppointed in my experience so far. The tent arrives on Monday.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(EastieTrekker @ Nov. 01 2012, 10:22 am)
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When a momma tent and a daddy tent love each other very much, sometimes they...oh wait, I don't think that's exactly what you were asking :D

:laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Franco @ Nov. 01 2012, 7:04 pm)
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To avoid getting cold,wet and lost I just set them up in my bedroom.
This is me "camping" before my coffee break 10 minutes ago...

As our buddy Family Guy says, "I am calling BS on this one".

If this is your home where are the cats? And wallabies and dingoes or whatever...?

;-)


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TrailTramper @ Nov. 01 2012, 8:20 pm)
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REI, LL Bean, Cabela's etc. don't make their own tents. In fact, who does? Is it only the little guys?

Well that is not really true. REI doesn't have a factory in Seattle with associates sewing tents while they are not helping people find the perfect pack. (Or taking yet another destroyed snowshoe return from Tigger;) But they actually do their own designs now and have their tents made for them the same as most other tent manufacturers. LL Bean at least did one of their own tents that I know of (2009), and I think they still are. I just don't deal with them much so can't say for sure.

Giant retailers like Cabela's (who make REI look local) usually just rebrand or license.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 10:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(rayestrella @ Nov. 01 2012, 10:39 pm)
QUOTE

(Franco @ Nov. 01 2012, 7:04 pm)
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To avoid getting cold,wet and lost I just set them up in my bedroom.
This is me "camping" before my coffee break 10 minutes ago...

As our buddy Family Guy says, "I am calling BS on this one".

If this is your home where are the cats? And wallabies and dingoes or whatever...?

;-)

The dingo ate them.

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(Gabby @ Nov. 01 2012, 7:48 pm)
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(Nice “package”, Franco. Can we meet?)

It is a pretty small tent, huh Gabby? I bet you don't even notice it once it's packed...

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 01 2012, 11:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TrailTramper @ Nov. 01 2012, 3:15 pm)
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(obchristo @ Nov. 01 2012, 10:40 am)
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To flip the idea around: when you click on the "buy" button on some (many, actually most...) manufacturer sites, you go to a third party that actually does the transactions for multiple manufacturers.

So one of these days we're going to find out that all these tents come from the same factory in China and we're just going to e-mail our order to China and the tent is going to cost $30 instead of $300. All those middle folks are going to be eliminated.

How about a made-to-order tent that doesn't even involve any human beings? You click on a bunch of boxes to select your material, size, shape, etc. and the tent is made by  a CNC machine in China, packed up by a robot, and mailed off to you.

Actually, you kinda hit what "Beyond" does for clothing. Except it's made in the US and there are humans who make it.

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 12:01 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TrailTramper @ Nov. 01 2012, 6:20 pm)
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(pastywhite @ Nov. 01 2012, 8:09 pm)
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What if the middleman throws in a lifetime warranty for free? Just because someone doesn't make an item doesn't mean they cannot provide value.

Cool. Who do you know that does that, among these internet retailers?

You're right, and that was sort of my point. REI, LL Bean, Cabela's etc. don't make their own tents. In fact, who does? Is it only the little guys?

Define "Little Guys".

Tarptent doesn't make their own tents anymore (at least that's what Henry told me a couple years ago).

Nobody that I have worked with does. They are designers and marketers. Some more designers, some more marketers. Tent designers are interesting people. Marketers- not so much (and I actually have a degree in Marketing)

The reality is that by the time you have invested in designing and marketing a design, it is more cost efficient to have someone else make it in the quantities you would need to sell to recoup the money and time you spent designing and marketing it.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 12:10 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TrailTramper @ Nov. 01 2012, 8:52 pm)
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Wouldn't it be more profitable for a company like Alps Mountaineering to sell their tents directly to consumers at reasonable prices, instead of selling through these internet retailers?
I have the impression that Alps is a tiny company. Maybe using drop shipping allows them to keep their employee numbers very low.

They are not a tiny company. But like I believe OBc mentioned earlier (or maybe another thread) why deal with one-person sales when you can sell 500 or 5000 units and never have to talk to anyone? Manufacturers make a product and figure out what they need to make it profitable.

Retailers take that and add to it to make what they need to both make a profit and deal with the public and pay for the showrooms. Why does REI charge retail when others charge less? Because they have to deal with the returns. (With a smile on their face.) And have that big store for us to try stuff out and then order online.

ALPS skips out on all that. The owner learned from his time with Kelty. I bet his time there taught him to stay away from customer sales.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 12:13 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(obchristo @ Nov. 01 2012, 11:01 pm)
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Tent designers are interesting people. Marketers- not so much (and I actually have a degree in Marketing)

:laugh:  :laugh:

Totally agree. I like designers.

Oops, and media reps! Love you... ;-)


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 1:02 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

from Ray ;
If this is your home where are the cats?

Pip died last year ,in my arms , about 8 feet away from where she was born 18.5 years before.
( I cried for two weeks...)
Lucy, her mom, is now about 21 and has gone almost completely deaf since a few months ago.
Oddly today for the first time in months she was upstairs and inside that tent (went is as I was posting).


Henry still makes his own tents, however not the one you buy.
Those are made in Seattle.
That is the one in WA not the one in Guangzhou
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 1:26 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

[quote=Franco,Nov. 02 2012, 1:02 am][/quote]
What is it with tents and cats?
I always like seeing cats in your pics, Franco.
Anytime I set up a tent in the house or the yard, the cats all have to come have a look and sit a bit inside.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 8:53 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(rayestrella @ Nov. 02 2012, 12:10 am)
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Why deal with one-person sales when you can sell 500 or 5000 units and never have to talk to anyone?

Manufacturers make a product and figure out what they need to make it profitable.

Retailers take that and add to it to make what they need to both make a profit and deal with the public and pay for the showrooms. Why does REI charge retail when others charge less? Because they have to deal with the returns. (With a smile on their face.) And have that big store for us to try stuff out and then order online.

ALPS skips out on all that. The owner learned from his time with Kelty. I bet his time there taught him to stay away from customer sales.

Do you mean selling 500 or 5000 units directly to internet retailers? Or just through one-step drop shipping?

My guess---based in part on the million-dollar salary of REI's CEO---is that the REI business model works better in the end, but takes a heck of a lot of effort over a long period of time. In the end customers have a clear idea of who REI is. We feel a part of the REI family. So we buy there again and again.

It seems like a good part of REI's profit has to come from having good designs that people are willing to pay more for. I would pay 25% more for good customer service and the return policy, but only a great design (still talking about tents) would make me pay 50-100% more. I didn't go with something like the REI Half Dome because there are tents out there with the same or better quality for less money. To get a good, cheap Alps tent I'm willing to take the risk and go with an unknown drop shipper. We'll see if that turns out to be smart or not. If REI had the right design for my needs I would have gone with REI and paid more.  

I do think this discussion supports the point that obchristo was making in another thread about the drawbacks of the Alps business model.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 12:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Every retail category has a place for a "big box" -- for the masses who dabble in outdoor activities REI is their one-stop shop. Those folks don't buy online because they don't know the brands or even their own equipment needs, they need someone in a green vest to tell them. I think that's REI's bread and butter.

As for middlemen, at first you might think they only cause drag and added expense to the system, but often that isn't the case. For example, my cell phone provider is a third party re-seller, through them I am on the Verizon backbone but this middleman can offer a cheaper rate than Verizon can (or will) directly. Many outdoor gear manufacturers would be terrible at retail, and even so they would then have to bear the cost of running that retail operation just like the middleman does and pass that on in their price.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 02 2012, 12:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(rayestrella @ Nov. 01 2012, 9:13 pm)
QUOTE

(obchristo @ Nov. 01 2012, 11:01 pm)
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Tent designers are interesting people. Marketers- not so much (and I actually have a degree in Marketing)

:laugh:  :laugh:

Totally agree. I like designers.

Oops, and media reps! Love you... ;-)

I'm a "Media Rep"?

Huh... I thought I was a Retail Buyer.

To be clear, I don't sell anything on this site (just being paranoid again).

And while I may provide direction to our Marketing Department (comprised of 3 part time people), I don't consider my job function to be Marketing- although with a company as small as ours, I have my hands in pretty much everything.  :)

And I love you too....  :;):


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(JRinGeorgia @ Nov. 02 2012, 9:01 am)
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Every retail category has a place for a "big box" -- for the masses who dabble in outdoor activities REI is their one-stop shop. Those folks don't buy online because they don't know the brands or even their own equipment needs, they need someone in a green vest to tell them. I think that's REI's bread and butter.

As for middlemen, at first you might think they only cause drag and added expense to the system, but often that isn't the case. For example, my cell phone provider is a third party re-seller, through them I am on the Verizon backbone but this middleman can offer a cheaper rate than Verizon can (or will) directly. Many outdoor gear manufacturers would be terrible at retail, and even so they would then have to bear the cost of running that retail operation just like the middleman does and pass that on in their price.

Agreed.

The company I work for actually has a Retail Division and a Wholesale Division. Our Wholesale Division sells outdoor accessories to little Mom and Pop shops all over the country (and world). For these small shops, it's actually more efficient for them to buy their Nalgene Bottles, Primus Stoves, Princeton Tec Headlamps etc from one source than to deal with all those Manufacturers individually, and it is more efficient for the Manufacturers.

If we added friction and increased overall cost, nobody would do it.


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Knowledge is the one thing you can aways carry more of- and not increase pack weight!!!!
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