Small Orders Are Escalating

January 2006
by Curt Matthews

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The received wisdom in our
industry is that the small accounts hardly matter any more because they can no
longer compete with the big-box stores and Internet retailers. From this, it
should follow that the ability to process the small orders that small customers
typically generate is becoming less important.


And this was indeed true for some


Not any more.


IPG has just installed new
software in the warehouse to improve our ability to handle large numbers of
small orders. The fact that this new software was necessary reveals a change
not only in our distribution business but also in the wide world of


When we revamped our
picking-and-packing systems last year—computers and scanners everywhere,
bar codes on everything—the emphasis was on handling large truck
shipments to the major accounts. Now, while the volume of shipments to the
majors continues to grow, the volume of small orders is also growing, and at a
much faster rate


The explanation for this surge in
small orders has four components:


The terrible attrition among small retail booksellers has dramatically slowed.
The stores that remain are run by battle-hardened
veterans with the savvy to succeed in a very difficult business. As IPG
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