February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19
By Reginald Tucker
Of the many challenges facing the flooring industry, dealing with excess inventory, seconds, drops and outdated samples is high on the list. This should come as no surprise given the relatively high rate of product turnover in flooring. However, one company has developed an innovative, high-tech solution to this perennial problem. Brooklandville, Md.-based Xintory (short for “inventory exchange”) earlier this month rolled out what it believes is the industry’s first online, universal, B2B marketplace designed strictly for manufacturers, distributors, dealers and installers to sell and buy overstocks, drops and specials.
Founded by Larry Feldman, a 30-year veteran of the floor covering industry who once served as president of Mid-Atlantic distributor Superior Products, the objective of the new portal—Xintory.com—is to provide a marketplace where sellers and buyers in the trade can reliably and securely get together to solve an issue that impacts virtually everyone across the supply chain.
“As products are continually restyled, dealers often pull samples of discontinued products quickly to avoid selling something that may no longer be available,” Feldman explained, adding that many lines are discontinued after just two or three years. And in some cases, dealers and distributors have old inventory stocks for even five or 10 years. That’s where Xintory can help. For sellers, the program provides exposure to buyers throughout the country and, in some cases, internationally. Xintory offers automatic linkages to the product on the manufacturer’s website or catalog sheets to help market their product to buyers, and there is no cost to seller for merely listing products; Xintory charges a modest fee only on products sold.
“We have a lot of powerful tools here to help sellers market their products,” Feldman said. For example, sellers can upload Excel spreadsheets of any number of items. Case in point: Xintory is working closely on a beta test with Conestoga Tile, which uploaded 450 line items of discontinued material.
Jim Vogel, owner of Conestoga Tile, likes what he’s seeing so far. “Rather than sending materials to auction and getting only a few dollars for it, Xintory allows you to take older inventories and sell that material at better prices.”
Vogel also likes the fact the program can be tweaked as necessary. “I am working with Larry [Feldman] on developing tools to help the retailer search for overstock tile by inputting specific criteria such as color, size or manufacturer/brand.”
Likewise, buyers benefit by being able to access specials across a variety of categories as well as tools and accessories—all typically below manufacturer costs. And as is the case with sellers, there is no cost for buyers to shop for products; Xintory charges only on products purchased. More importantly, Xintory offers a buyer protection plan to ensure the integrity of the transaction. Although buyers have to pay in advance when they place an order, Xintory holds the money until the buyer confirms they have received the products in good condition—at which time it forwards the funds to the seller. In the unlikely event there’s a dispute, the company continues to hold the money until it is settled. “We serve as kind of an objective arbiter here,” Feldman stated.
While the Xintory portal has the hallmarks of existing online auctions, Feldman stresses it’s no eBay. Since Xintory strictly sells drops and seconds, it is only open to the floor covering trade—not to consumers. “The reason why we don’t use eBay is simple: When I entered ‘carpet’ in eBay I got 532,000 entries, and most of them looked like retailers trying to sell new product to consumers. Plus, it’s just not set up on a level that’s usable on a B2B basis.”
Another advantage Xintory offers is its user-friendly design. The product selection menu is organized by range of floor covering categories, including installation accessories such as tools and adhesives. Viewers can sort by manufacturer brand, product name, style, etc. Even used merchandisers and displays can be listed. There are also filters installed that allow buyers and sellers to categorize product by color or style to streamline the search/selection process. There is also a “distance” filter that allows a dealer to search for buyers in close proximity to his store to avoid costly shipping fees.
“We also have proprietary technology that helps sellers market their products,” Feldman said. “For example, if the seller tells us the style, manufacturer, color and, preferably, SKU number, we will search the Internet for a link to that specific product on the manufacturer’s website. This helps the seller communicate to the buyer exactly what it is he is selling while allowing the buyer to check the specifications for the product he is considering.”
There are also built-in options for the seller to set a price based on how many square feet or rolls of product he is willing to sell at a given threshold if, given the worst-case scenario, he is not able to sell the entire inventory of a specific listed product. “This partial quantity price may represent, say, a 20% upcharge over the entire quantity,” Feldman said. “There is also a feature known as ‘automatic price reduction,’ which will take the base price the seller lists down to the lowest floor price in several increments automatically. This gives the seller as much of an opportunity as he can while allowing him to get rid of the inventory as quickly as possible. Sellers can also check off a box that allows the buyer to make counter offers.”
With respect to freight, the buyer will have to pay the charges in most cases, because when the seller lists something he has no idea where the buyer is going to be, Feldman explained. But there’s also an option for the seller to pay in cases where the buyer is close.
While the Xintory launch is only in the initial stages, Feldman believes it’s the wave of the future. “This is inevitable, in my opinion. The B2B overstock marketplace is potentially larger than the consumer overstock marketplace. I have talked to various distributors around the country, and every single person told me they want to use this site to do business.”
Kyle Hunt, product manager for Houston-based T&L Distributing, a top 20 wholesaler, is one of them. “Based on the feedback we’ve received so far, we’re going to be using Xintory a lot more as we go along. It’s a viable options for us.”