In this series, we learn from small businesses across the country how they are adapting in the world of COVID-19.
Ryan Kugler is owner and president of Plan B Distribution, a secondary wholesaler based in Los Angeles, CA specializing in buying and selling closeouts/overstocks on pretty much any and all products out there. He has been in the business for over 27 years. Manufacturers reach out to Plan B Distribution when they are overstocked with their own excess inventory; they buy the product and in turn re-distribute the product to other retailers in ancillary and tertiary markets.
What was the first thing you did when you realized this situation was about to affect your business or daily life?
At first I did nothing, I did not think this would change things, the reality had not set in, yet! After a few days to a week, I did notice that some of our customers (non-essential) where either closed or on pause. Eventually the phones stopped ringing, emails were coming back with out of office, etc. Then I realized it! So I started calling only the essential businesses that were still open and offered them items in need, items that were flying off the shelf.
What are you doing now that you weren't doing a month ago?
Well, our customers, the ones still open, the essential businesses, needed medical supplies, gloves, masks, gowns, glasses and more. This is something we had access to and could supply where others could not, and we are able to supply such products here in the USA, which is better as other businesses could stay open (as opposed to having it made overseas). So 75% of the products we are now moving are medical supplies and other such needed essential products to the stores still open (as well as the stores that will be coming back online soon). One of the things we always do differently, our business model, is we find a need (what our customers want) and we go and get it for them. This way, the buyers don’t need to make 100 calls looking for such items, we do it.
What challenges are you concerned about in the weeks ahead?
Filling our customers’ needs with the items they are looking for as the supply chain will fizzle out soon. What is needed TODAY, there’s not enough of out there. All of our customers want it yesterday, so we have to work harder to procure it from our domestic channels (we prefer to only buy what is already here in the USA).
How are you taking care of your customers and employees?
When this first hit, I told my employees that they will be paid for at least the next 4 weeks (during the safer at home time), although they can work from home part time if they want or come in half days. 75% of the world and our business has slowed down, so better they stay at home with family then be forced to come into the office. If they felt more safe working from home, then I was fine with that too. Also, our office is wiped down every day, inside and out.
What opportunities do you see coming out of this situation?
Our customers' needs and retailers' needs are going to change weekly and monthly - at least for right now. Things will go back to normal, but I would say in about 30-60 days. So for the next 4-6 weeks, we will ride this wave and find out what our customers needs are and supply them with that. Interesting times!