REED Manufacturing Workwear

Listen to the Interview:

Contact Information:

(800) 647-1280

Links  Mentioned in this Interview:

REED Manufacturing Website

Transcript:

Marty Hartman:
Welcome to the Supplier Spotlight Interview. We are thrilled today to have Ed Nelson, CEO and Chairman of the Board with Reed Manufacturing. Reed has a great line of workwear, both traditional workwear and FR. So if you are a distributor or a laundry and you’re looking for opportunities to offer alternatives for your customers, I think you’ll be interested in this call. Ed, welcome to the interview.

Ed Nelson:
Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.

Marty Hartman:
So Ed, we know that a lot of our members know Reed Manufacturing very well, some of them do not. Give us your quick elevator pitch and let everybody know why they should listen to the rest of this interview.

Ed Nelson:
Well, we believe that we offer big time quality, excellent value, all with a small company hands-on touch. We refer to ourselves as, and I quote, “A little different kind of company,” and we mean it. We got what you need and we don’t try to foist on you what you don’t need.

Marty Hartman:
That’s right, transparency. That’s what I like about you guys.

Ed Nelson:
That’s right.

Marty Hartman:
So Reed has recently celebrated a hundred years in business. So what’s on the plan for the next hundred years?

Ed Nelson:
Well, number one, I doubt I’ll be around for all hundred of them, but the plan is to maintain on the core values that have got us this far, which gets me to our mission statement, which is, “Quality, integrity and customer service,” which all add up to excellence. As we do that, we are going to adapt, we are adapting to the ever-changing needs of the industry, and specifically of our customers. The business needs, the business itself is changing and we are changing with it. Also, we believe that we have on hand a very strong group to take us forward, beginning with our new president, Zeb Atkinson, who joined us three years ago and is primed to take us for a goodly number of years into the future.

Marty Hartman:
That’s great. Yes, we’ve talked with Zeb before. He knows his stuff.

Ed Nelson:
He does know his stuff.

Marty Hartman:
So as I mentioned earlier, Reed is very well-known, especially in the industrial laundry industry. Can you give our direct sale members an insight on the quality of your products and tell them a little bit about what you offer in the brands?

Ed Nelson:
Yeah. Well, we mentioned earlier that we’ve been around for a hundred years, and I would state that it’s hard to be around for a hundred years if you aren’t doing something right. In our business that begins with making quality garments. We do that, we’ve always done that, and we are proud of the fact that we do that. Over the years we have produced all kinds of garments for a number of companies, which, I’m going to name drop a little bit, include Levi Strauss, Gap, Guess, Woolrich, Target, and JC Penney and many others. All of those companies I can assure you have stringent requirements relative to quality and relative to service, and we did a lot of business with those companies for a long number of years. We, of course, have in place all the standard quality monitoring, measuring techniques. We also have a couple of other things that I’d like to mention, if this is okay.

Marty Hartman:
Sure.

Ed Nelson:
All of our products are produced in WRAP accredited facilities. WRAP is an acronym which stands for Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production. This is a global organization that monitors its factories for social and legal and environmental compliance. This certification means that our customers can be assured that any garment that they purchase from Reed has been produced in a safe factory which treats its employees fairly and are absolutely in a compliance with all pertinent laws. In addition, all of our FR garments are made from UL certified materials and are produced in UL certified factories. And we have been the last year preparing ourselves to receive our ISO 9001 certification. We believe that we will be receiving that some time early next year.

Marty Hartman:
I’m sure that a lot of our listeners are very familiar with apparel through the manufacturers, the stores, brands that you mentioned, so basically you guys were doing white label production for all of these brands. So in effect, they’re very familiar with your work already, they just didn’t know it was Reed that was behind it.

Ed Nelson:
Well, actually that’s exactly right. Over the years, particularly for Penney, we’ve produced… Let’s see, Arizona Jeans, St John’s Bay, Hunt Club, Towncraft, Plain Pockets. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. We’ve produced a large number of their private labels.

Marty Hartman:
So right now for our members, primarily when they are going to be working with Reed, it’s going to be in the workwear realm. Can you tell us what types of workwear our members can expect when they are buying from Reed?

Ed Nelson:
Yes, absolutely. We offer what I guess I would call the standard lineup of shirts and pants, jeans and coveralls. Shirts, pants and coveralls are offered both in the 65/35 blend and 100% cotton. The jeans are 100% cotton. We also offer FR products in shorts, pants, jeans and coveralls. The best way to learn about our product line is to go to ReedManufacturing.com. It’s an excellent website and you can find out about all the products which we offer there.

Marty Hartman:
Great. Great resource. It’s a competitive market, the workwear apparel market. How would you say that your productions or your products compare to the competition?

Ed Nelson:
Well, as you might expect, I’m going to say that our garments are best in show. I’m not sure I can say anything else. But I’m not just saying that. As I mentioned earlier, we take a lot of pride in the quality of our garments, and the proof’s in the pudding. So we welcome the opportunity for any kind of a side by side comparison of our jeans, our shirts, our pants, or our coveralls with anyone of our competitors.

Marty Hartman:
You mentioned the proof’s in the pudding. Tell us a little about getting samples if our members are interested in actually taking a closer look at your garments. How do they go about getting samples?

Ed Nelson:
You would contact us and we’d set up an account. Once we have that done, we not only are able to send you samples, we will want to send you samples. We want you take a look at our garments. I suppose come back to us with any kind of questions that you might have about them. But we’re not afraid to send out samples. I mean, we’re not going to send a hundred samples of one size, that would seem a little bit excessive, I guess.

Marty Hartman:
Oh, absolutely.

Ed Nelson:
But we do want people to have a chance to look at our garments, and are happy to send them out upon request.

Marty Hartman:
I keep hearing from our members that they are having some problems with deliveries from one of your competitors. It appears that there’s an inventory issue. How do you stand with your inventory.

Ed Nelson:
In the first place, we take a lot of pride in our inventory management system. It is, to a large extent, is built in house for what we think are the specific needs of the specific industry which we are in. It isn’t just a big box that we shoehorn ourselves into. We have tweaked our system many times over the years so that we really believe that we have the right stuff at the right time. Today we are in excellent shape across the board on all the items which we offer. I will say, however, that we are not soothsayers. We cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy. Every once in a while we get a very large order on a style which traditionally does not have high volume. If and when that happens and we get behind, any additional orders which come in, we tell our customers the truth, here’s when you can have it. And once we make that promise we will keep that promise, whatever it takes. That’s how we do business.

Marty Hartman:
Great. Transparency is always good.

Ed Nelson:
Yes, it is.

Marty Hartman:
So, speaking of getting things in time, where are you shipping from? And basically, what our members are going to want to know is how long will it take to get inventory from a shipping standpoint?

Ed Nelson:
Okay. We ship FOB Tupelo, Mississippi. Sidebar:

Birthplace of Elvis Presley. End sidebar. Tupelo is about a hundred miles to the Southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. Everyone knows that Memphis is the distribution center of the world. We are an hour and a half away from Memphis, so we are in good shape. We get to most of our customers in the Eastern Time Zone and Central Time Zones in one, sometimes two days. Mountain Zone is two or three, and Pacific Time Zone is three, and sometimes four, particularly up to the Northwest.

Marty Hartman:
So what’s the process of setting up an account with Reed?

Ed Nelson:
All right, you give us a call. The number is (800) 647-1280. Tell us that you want to set up a new account. We will send you a short, like one page credit app. We can usually have an account approved within one or two days of receiving that application. The customer at that time will receive a price list, a list of the key personnel in his area and phone numbers at Reed Manufacturing, and with directions for the various ways of ordering which we have here.

Marty Hartman:
Great. So what types of ways are there to order?

Ed Nelson:
Well, you can order by fax, you can order by email, or you can certainly order online. We have a very, what we think is customer friendly online ordering system. People are encouraged to call anytime that they have a question, anytime that they want to check on the status of an order, but we do strongly encourage people, whether it’s fax, email, or online, to enter the order in one of those fashions rather than verbally. We just like to have it written down just to make sure that everybody’s in agreement on what got ordered.

Marty Hartman:
Marketing tools, our members are always looking at, especially our distributors. Well, and even our laundries. They’re always trying to put the products out that they represent and hopefully Reed will be one of them. What type of marketing tools can you help them with when they’re telling the Reed story?

Ed Nelson:
Well, as you mentioned earlier there’s always samples, which themselves, we hope, are not only used by our customer, but we hope that they are used by our customer as they are selling one of their customers. In addition, our main marketing tool, I mentioned earlier our website. The website is configured so that it functions as a catalog. We used to publish the annual catalog. Three, four, five years ago we decided that really that was a waste of money and time, that things were changing so fast that we were adding products, occasionally removing products, that we were better off and our customers were going to be better off if we kept our website up to date, which we do. It is configured so that you can print out any style, any color of any style which you’re interested in and make a focus presentation to whoever the end user is. In our opinion, you don’t want to be wasting time on coverall pages if this person’s interested in jeans. So that’s the way we do it.

Marty Hartman:
Now, you mentioned styles coming in and out. Are there core workwear standards that you always make available?

Ed Nelson:
Yes. I mentioned earlier we offer the standard line of 65/35 pants, 65/35 shirts, jeans and coveralls. We actually feature what we call a flex pant, which is a pant that has a little bit of elastic in the side, meaning that when you fit somebody, it’s going to fit whether they get a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller. We also of course offer the standard pant, the rigid waist pant. We offer all those pants in a variety of colors. We offer our shirts in your standard colors, navy and light blue and white and gray. We offer a number of stripes, a number of my micro-checks.

Ed Nelson:
One thing I do want to say is that our cotton shirts, unlike our competitors, our cotton shirts are put through a post-cure baking process, which makes them hold up better in the wash. This is something that we emphasize to our industrial laundry customers. These shirts come out of the steam tunnel looking a lot better than a shirt that has not been through this process. But for home uses even, it comes out of the dryer looking better than it would where it did not go through this process. This adds a little cost, but that’s not a cost which we pass on. We think that the better shirt will help us sell it.

Marty Hartman:
That’s one of the reasons that we’re so happy to have Reed with us as one of our preferred suppliers, is because you do offer a complete line of very competitively priced workwear that side by side it stacks up in quality to what they are used to buying right now from their current workwear supplier. But the added benefit, as you mentioned earlier, with all of the brands that you have offered, you make it fairly easy for members if they have the quantities to actually do some custom workwear. Is that correct?

Ed Nelson:
That’s absolutely correct. I should have mentioned that earlier. Thank you. We pride ourselves on listening to what our customers say. We, of course, are more than happy to sell you what we have on our shelf, but as you mentioned, if the volume is there, we’re also happy to work with you to develop some kind of a custom program, whether it be only a shirt, a shirt with some special features. We make a lot of shirts with a variety of reflective tape, both on regular shirts and also FR shirts. Gosh, I could go on and on. This could be a very long interview if I get into… We do a lot of these kinds of programs with our existing customers, obviously we did these when we were doing business with all the retailers.

Ed Nelson:
And I think it’s really important to emphasize that when we say we work with you, those aren’t just words. We listen to what you say. We try to take the words which you give us and put that into some kind of a drawing and description. We come back to you with that. We work out whatever details we didn’t have right. Having done that, we produce a prototype, we get that to you. If necessary, then we tweak further. And we end up with the product that is the product that you wanted in the first place. Or if the product which you’re after is not one that we’re comfortable making, it’s not one that we think that we would be your best source, then we’ll tell you that too.

Marty Hartman:
Just like the retail brands, is it possible for our members to have a private label?

Ed Nelson:
Yes, absolutely. We do that also with a number of our customers. Relatively easy to put any kind of a label. The label that they might actually want, there are good labels that are easy to do. There are really nice labels which are more expensive to do. We can do that all those ways, and once again, that comes back to what the customer wants. There are customers who want to buy 500 shirts. We do operate in small minimums also. We typically operate on a custom program like this for as low as 500 units of a color.

Marty Hartman:
Wow.

Ed Nelson:
So that’s much lower than most of our competitors.

Marty Hartman:
That is interesting.

Ed Nelson:
In terms of the private label, there are easy ones to do which add almost zero cost. There are other ones which are much nicer, which look better, but which do add a cost. And so that gets back to our customer. What are they interested in? Are they interested in and getting down and dirty or are they interested in going more high end? And we can work with them both ways.

Marty Hartman:
So Ed, as we’re closing out the interview, what else would you like our members to know before we sign off?\.

Ed Nelson:
We here at Reed, we understand extremely well that we are in a highly competitive business and that our customers are too. There’s nothing easy about this business. When it comes to our quality, when it comes to our service, we are all business. That’s it. We try to find the opportunity whenever we can to get to know our customers on a somewhat more personal basis. We still, every time we can, we want to operate on a handshake. If it needs to be something written down, then we’ll write something down, but we’re not in the business of making lawyers rich if we can help it. And in attempting to get to know people, it’s not unheard of that we will will sit down to a nice dinner or even the possible adult beverage.

Ed Nelson:
Like we say, we believe we are a different kind of company, a little different kind of company. And I’d like to add this. This hopefully will be the last thing I say. We are built, this company, our hundred years is built on integrity. When we tell a customer something, that’s what we’re going to do. If somehow along the way something gets bollixed up, we can’t get the fabric, we can’t get the disc, something happens which changes things, we will not put our head in the sand and hope for the best. We will contact our customer and say here’s the situation. Here’s what we believe we can do about it and work out what works better for everyone. I cannot overemphasize the emphasis that we place here on integrity. We are all extremely proud to be under name of Reed Manufacturing, and when we give our word, we intend to keep it.

Marty Hartman:
We do appreciate that. And I think that’s why Reed Manufacturing has lasted for a hundred years and we hope to see you guys manufacturing workwear for many, many more years.

Ed Nelson:
Thank you for the time. I appreciate the opportunity.