Way back in the day, when a retailer placed an order with a supplier it was done through a paper transaction, in person, with both sides signing off on the deal. It was efficient…if often time-consuming and occasionally difficult to decipher.
Electronic ordering changed all of that and today, the business of buying and selling has any number of ways for things to be transacted. EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) became the law of the land for big orders while online marketplaces and vendor websites serve a similar purpose for smaller deals. Sometimes things happen entirely automatically so that you never know when an order is coming, much less how big it will be and for what.
And you know what? These days, it can mean absolutely nothing at all.
As we’ve seen over the past two years, first when big stores arbitrarily cancelled orders at the start of the pandemic and now more recently when they are doing the same thing as they deal with bulging inventories, an order is an order is an order – until it’s not.
Sometimes it’s buried in the small digital print, the same way all of us ignore the user agreements on our software and iPhones. But sometimes an order is cancelled simply because it can be. Big stores know they can do pretty much what they want, a supplier is never going to sue them knowing that could be the kiss of death for any future working relationship.
And it’s not just big stores and big vendors either. When business was flying in 2021, all kinds of orders were placed with the full knowledge that a certain percentage of them would never get filled due to supply chain snafus, factory shutdowns or shortages in just about everything. These were orders in name only.
All of this ordering quagmire has now come back to haunt the entire home and gift trade, as it has for so many other consumer product categories. Players on both sides of the process are trying to sort all of this out, most with limited success. It’s going to take a while.
If an order is placed and nobody hears it, is it really an order at all? And if an order is cancelled and you don’t tell anybody, was it ever an order in the first place?
There’s a name for this now: Quiet Ordering.
Award-winning Journalist & Consultant for the retailing and home furnishings industries with extensive business media experience in both fields.