Editorial in the Field


To my pleasant surprise, I was asked to write about being a rep involved in consumer products. I have been a MANA member for about 10 years because of its focus on raising the bar of professionalism and conduct for both reps and manufacturers. I also belong to the International Housewares Representatives Association (IHRA), so I am one of the many reps that belong to two associations.

When I talk about consumer products, I refer to housewares and hardware products like picture frames, dinnerware, plastic storage, glassware, brushes and brooms, towels, stuffed animals, giftware pots and pans, etc. Specialized markets include over-the-counter drugs, snack and convenience foods and health and beauty care. We sell a combination of basic goods and promotional ins and outs. Unless we are working with small accounts, we are usually working six to 12 months from when the order ships.

What I have found fascinating through earning my CPMR designation and attending Keystone conferences is, although our products might be different, 90 percent of what reps are experiencing is the same:

  • Consolidation of accounts and manufacturers.
  • Territories defined by account versus geography.
  • Increased costs and sliding commissions.
  • Requests to provide increasing non-commissionable services.

We have very few distributors left, and a lot of product is coming direct from China and other foreign countries. Getting to the decision-maker gets a little harder every year.

Keeping ahead of the changes in the distribution curve is a must for all reps that want to prosper in the years to come. The best way to do this is by participating in all forms of continuing education available from MANA, MRERF and your industry-specific associations like IHRA, ERA, AIM/R, etc.

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  • photo of Steve Grossman

Steve Grossman is a partner at GM Partners, Arlington Heights, Illinois. He graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Marketing. He spent 10 years working for a mass merchandiser chain at store level in operations and buying, and has been a general merchandise rep since 1980, along with three years as co-owner of a clock manufacturing company. Grossman earned his CPMR designation in 1998 and has attended Back to Campus and both Keystone seminars. He was one of the founding members and first president of IHRA (International Houseware Representative Association). He has been a MRERF trustee since 1990 and a MANA member since 1997. He may be reached at steve@gmpartners.com.