14 October, 2008

Backorders and Shortages


As our longtime customers know, we often run out of certain products. There are several reasons for this.

With new products we typically place a smaller first order. I want to know if the production quality is as good as the samples we saw. It's not unheard of for a sample to be the very best example from a run. I also want to know if a new product will be popular before committing to a large inventory. For example, I thought the Grand Cru long reach brakes would sell like crazy given how well they work; they have been a good, but not phenomenal, seller. The VO Stem Adapter, on the other hand, a product that I thought would be only a modest seller, has proven very very popular. Being a new company, we have a disproportionate number of new products. Of course, there are also occasions when I blow it and simply order too few of something.

Production delays often cause items to be out of stock. Some popular items are made in small factories that that take as long as six months to make and ship orders. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just ordering early. Our business is not static. VO continues to grow quickly so it is difficult to predict what we'll need in six months.

So why don't we simply take backorders? One of the reasons is that I try to keep this business simple and enjoyable. Another is that our software does not support backorders. But more importantly, we couldn't guarantee when, or even if, something will be back and at what price. Most people would be hard pressed to order something if they didn't know when it would arrive and how much it would cost; I wouldn't. And many folks will find a substitute in the meantime.

Our plan is to eventually have a function that will allow customers to sign up for automatic e-mails when an out of stock item they want is back.

27 comments:

web said...

"For example, I thought the Grand Cru long reach brakes would sell like crazy given how well they work; they have been a good, but not phenomenal, seller. The VO Stem Adapter, on the other hand, a product that I thought would be only a modest seller, has proven very very popular."
This seems like common sense. The VO brakes competition is the much less expensive and, IMO, better looking Tektro long reach brakes.
The stem adapters competition is the more expensive and, IMO, uglier Nitto stem adapter.
Make it pretty, functional and competitive or better on price and it will sell.

C said...

I'd be curious - and I'm sure others are as well - to know what have been some of your best selling items.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The Grand Cru brake is not intended to compete with mid-range brakes like the Tektro, but with the very best brakes. Stiffness, weight, and performance are it's strong points, not low price.

Steve said...

Chris said:

Our plan is to eventually have a function that will allow customers to sign up for automatic e-mails when an out of stock item they want is back.


That would be extremely convenient and I'm sure it would be wildly popular. I've taken advantage of such a feature a few times, and it's been great. In one case, after several weeks of being out of stock 700x32 Paselas came in; the notices went out, I ordered mine, and within a day or two they were backordered again.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris:
Given the supply problems and nature of the business, an e-mail notificiation is probably MUCH better than allowing backordering.

Anonymous said...

Man, I've been waiting forever for R-clips for fender stays. Obviously, until the r-clips come in, I can't order stays or daruma bolts...

With items like this, wouldn't it be best to order the items in similar quantities? Like, two R-clips for every stay?

Chris Kulczycki said...

We actually order 5 or 10 times more R-clips than stays, but they sell a lot faster than the stays. Go figure...

In any case, you can use VO R-clips on Honjo stays, which are now in stock.

elvisvelo said...

My question is not directly relevant, but this talk of in stock/out of stock got me to thinking about my VO randonneur frame, which is on some list, someplace, and is somewhere out there in the future, not in stock, and so I got to thinking that it would be nice if those of us who have had money down for a long time could be given some idea where we stand with the progress on the Rando frames. I got the idea that soon after I ordered mine the wait got considerably longer, and the price went up, but beyond that it is a mystery. If the wait time is considerable, some people might need to rethink the order, and that would actually speed up delivery for other people, as it turns out.

Tina Lipsuxberg said...

stem adapters are popular, maybe you should start selling post 1970's technology and get rich.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Tina, The way I see it, the world has enough rich people, but not enough old technology ;<)

web said...

"The Grand Cru brake is not intended to compete with mid-range brakes like the Tektro"

I'm honestly not looking for an argument here but this response doesn't really sit well with me.

It may not have been intended to compete with a brakeset half it's price but my point was that it does - and doesn't really do so favorably at twice the price. Sorry if that's harsh but I feel it's true. I have both the Tektro ($45) and the higher-end Shimano ($120) 47-57mm reach brakes. The Tektros are lighter, better looking and seem to stop marginally better (yes, that could easily be subjective but they work at least as well as the Shimanos). The Tektros are fantastic - the only real difference between the Tektros and Shimanos are that the Tektros are much shinier and much less expensive.
A large part of why I'm a BIG Velo Orange fan is because you take the time to personally respond, chat & share with your customers through this blog - and all of this is generally hype & marketing free. Your response about the VO brakes sounds a bit too close to marketing hype. I don't think there is any weight savings over the Tektro set, differences in stiffness likely cannot be measured outside of a lab and "performance" is subjective at best. I'm sure both brakes modulate well and stop the bike as they should. So that leaves us with two very similar brakesets - the major differences being aesthetics and price.

Anonymous said...

Like the last poster, I have not used the VO brakes. It is my understanding that Chris feels they outperform everything short of cantilevers (and iirc, even some of those). I have to say that such a brake sounds interesting to me. There is room for improvement in road calipers, even though the newer dual pivot designs work awfully well. I like the balance Chris strikes between great products and great prices. He saw an opportunity to improve on the high end of the road brake category, and went for it. I'd be interested in reading the opinions of those who have bought the new VO brakes and used them.

Anonymous said...

My two cents:

Since the Campy Dual Record Pivots came out (1994? 92? -- I cant recall!) Ive been using them. They are excellent brakes. So are the Dura Ace. So are Chorus and Ultegra; and the Mavic, and now SRAMbrakes -- all are excellent, in the "short reach" world.

The Grand Cru long reach (57mm) is a better stopper with better feel and modulation than the Shimano or Tektro. No, it's not a HUGE difference but definitely a difference. Jobst Brandt would undoubtedly say say dual pivots are overkill, andthat a 4:1 ratio is all he ever needs, ragardless of brake arm length (ha ha ha!).

The Tektros, however, do have flex you can see when braking hard on a long descent, or in tight switchbacks while descending a long hill or mountain. Rain use is another good measure: the Grand Cru are better than the Tektros -- period. Shimano's are stiffer than Tektros but they have that dumb adjustment barrel spring setup I cant stand...

Additionally the fatigue factor of long distance riding matters here, and the power of a good brake is appreciated once youre over 8 hours in the saddle!...

The Tektros are good brakes; and I know Chris K. likes them. Im not part of the Velo Orange marketing department but the Grand Cru brakes are excellent.
PLUS they have a better profile for fenders under the brake than the Ultegra or Tektro ( exception is the "new" Rivendell Tektro that has better under brake clearance...but that brake has the same problems of flex relative to the Grand Cru, and probably worse, given the length of the brake arm was increased to gain the clearance.)

I can recall Grant Petersen claiming he EXTRA long reach Tektro was as good as a Shimano 57mm brake-- nonsense!!! I dont know what he was squeezing when he made that claim and comparison...and Alex Wetmore agrees: see his comments on why building a bike around the Extra long reach brake (like Kogswell seems poised to do) is a bad idea...I agree with Wetmore.

Buy the Grand Crus -- you wont be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of brakes, can I get an opinion on Cantis? I have the Tektro Oryx, which don't stick out and have adjusters for spring tension. But the pivots have a lot of play in them which has caused a lot of squeeking and I think a tendency for the brakes to lock during sudden car-caused stops. Shorter pads with much more toe-in seems to have made a huge difference. Note that I use Moustache bars, so I'm often squeezing the end of the lever. Your opinions on brakes are appreciated.

Anonymous said...

On Cantilvers: search google for Jobst Brandt on Cantilevers...thats all you need to know.

The pivots are not what is causing the noise. you could try a middle of the fork crown cable hanger (for the front), available from Harris Cyclery on the Web, as they seem to get rid of brake squeal.

the great news is Velo Orange will have squeal-free brake pads soon...which means you can forget about toe in, and with maximal pad contacton the rim, you get much better braking out of cantilevers of all kinds, high-brow or low (like the Oryx)...

Anonymous said...

OT: how's that Pass Hunter build coming?

David said...

CK,

I support your backorder policy. It seems to me that the idea of the backorder came about when business systems were somewhat different and most importantly when communication was more cumbersome than it is now.

The email notification system sounds like a good idea. I know you have a QBP account. My expereince has been that QBP has consistently been at the front of functional and painless ordering and inventory technology (though I've been out of the bike biz for more than two years, and a lot can change in two years these days).

On the Grand Cru brakes: the price point is high, and from the POV of not having used the brakes, I would find it hard to justify not going with the tektro product based on what I can only call "apparent value." The G.C. brakes' appearance is somewhat unfinished, or under-finished, or non-traditional, which is somewhat out of keeping with other VO products--and this might lead to buyer hesitation. That said, the review that followed certainly lends creedence to your claims. Here's a suggestion: split the sets. This would reduce the initial investment, and encourage consumers to try the brakes for themselves.

Also, and now I'm just being a dork, why can't we go back to using nutted brakes? This has nothing to do wtih the Grand Cru brakes, but this could: can you make the front and the rear have THE SAME LENGTH mounting post, and provide a few different nuts, some recessed, and a spacer and a few curvy washers, so the same brake can fit front, rear, etc. This would solve the whole "hipsters-stole-all-the-front-brakes-for-their-fixed-gear-bikes" problem. Yeah, it's a silly idea.

More for CK: are you familiar with Salli Raspberry's and Michael Phillips' book "Honest Business." You clearly don't need it, because VO already reflects much of what they discus. Nevertheless, you might find it interesting. It would be even more interesting to revise it in the context of the digital age: to confirm (or not) that their ideas remain cogent, and to provide contemporary examples.

Shutting up now.--David

nordic_68 said...

email notification - hallelulia!

David said...

Re: Raspberry/Phillips, Honest Business,

Don't get the Shambala Pocket Edition, go with the original, full size version:

http://www.amazon.com/Honest-Business-Superior-Strategy-Starting/dp/0931425182

Tom said...

the Gran Cru brakes are closer to the Zero gravity in performance. It really is a high end brake. Comparing it to a pricepoint Tektro is doing it a disservice.

These brakes are very popular in Japan in high end bike shops, selling for 220-250,000 yen. They are lighter than D/A and Tektro, have better modulation than most shimano and tektro dual pivot calipers, and have more clearance than either for fenders, which speaks to the core of VO blog readers. The VO brakes are a lot less than dura ace and comparable to higher end tektros.
VO brakes are also high polished and un-anodized, unlike anything from any other company, once again speaking to the core of VO blog readers.

Anonymous said...

...too bad the QR lever is black on the VO brakes, all silver would be nice!

Tom said...

The brake pads are black, as is the recessed fixing bolt on the back. The Torx wrench supplied with the brakeset is also black.

C said...

"the Gran Cru brakes are closer to the Zero gravity in performance."

Not a good thing in my book! I've worked on bikes with Zero Gravity brakes and while it's a clever design it sacrifices performance in the name of weight savings. One pro I spoke with a couple of years ago secretly admitted they didn't work as well as DuraAce.

James said...

I don't suppose VO could sell dia compe center pulls with a longer front brake bolt that would work on older frames? Or sell an appropriate bolt separately.

The Dia Compe 750 is the best upgrade for a of older bikes but as as it is, upgrading to the 750 often requires a good amount of searching to get an appropriate bolt for the front brake, archeological work that most people aren't going to engage in.

Every time I install center pulls on an older bike I have to find some used dia comp bolts, usually on used shorter reach center pulls purchased from a co op with a junk box.

Aside from Bleriots and a few Salukis what other bikes are equipped with the center pull? It's possible that most wind up on older bikes that have front brake holes too narrow for the supplied recessed allen bolt.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect:

The Grand Crus are waaaaaay better than the Zero gravity brake. The latter are not exactly great stoppers -- the SZero Gravity brakes are very light...I guess that matters to some, but not to me...esp. at their ridiculous price!

Carice Pingenot said...

An email policy, or a waiting list for things, like the Porteur rack that sell out instantaneously would be nice. I'm willing to wait for such a nice looking rack, and I'm willing to spend the money for the design, but it's frustrating to hear they're available on Friday, try to place an order on Saturday and be told on Monday that they won't be available for maybe two months. I don't check the website daily, and I'm not sure how to avoid that happening again when the next shipment arrives.
I wrote asking if I could be put on backorder and received an email telling me only that backorders are not accepted. If there is a list, it would be nice to be told how to get on it, so that I have a chance of getting one in the next shipment.

ChrisCullum said...

In regards to the Grand Cru brakes I would agree that there is already a bit of competition in that dual pivot market. Not as nicely executed but nonetheless. You were talking about a nice centrepull brake a while back, did you determine that the old Mafacs and new Pauls had that covered? I think a nice new centrepull with better hardware than the Mafacs and less bulky than the Pauls would be a hit. The Paul brake is bulky because the arms are not forged. A direct pull (like a V-brake) to eliminate the cable hangers and simplify the housing run would be interesting options too.