Trade dept. blasts into cyberspace
by Kurt Burger, Lt. Colonel –
The Salvation Army Western Territory’s Supplies and Purchasing Department, fondly known as “Trade,” is moving into the 21st century with a new name, a new location, and increased access for officers and soldiers across the territory.
Beginning November 1, 2004, Resource Connection, our new Trade, will be available anywhere there is an Internet connection: in the corps, other Army facilities, and even home computers. Resource Connection is a joint venture between the Central and Western Territories. The two operations will become one, under the new name, with a new business model, and operating out of one location. The warehouse and administrative staff will be based in Chicago.
One of the driving factors to change our business model for Trade is the significant financial loss over many years. In an era when all Salvation Army units are facing financial challenges and making hard decisions it was time to evaluate the annual losses and determine the best course of action for the future. An outside consultant was contracted to study the operation of Trade and they reached the conclusion it should either be closed or sustain significant increases in prices due to the low sales volumes, which are not likely to change significantly. Trade’s customer base (the corps, institutions, officers, soldiers and friends of the Army) could not easily absorb the increases suggested by the study.
The last issue of New Frontier included a lengthy report on the activity of the three major task forces commissioned by Commissioner Linda Bond.
The Economic Task Force (ETF) was challenged with evaluating the fiscal situation of the territory from a macro level. Basic principles used by the ETF included evaluating how to: 1) reduce administrative overload 2) reduce costs 3) develop new sources of revenue 4) increase effectiveness and 5) increase efficiency.
The decision to change the Trade business model will make a difference in each of these areas. For example: 1) Ordering will be easier than ever, and pictures of the merchandise will help ensure the correct merchandise is ordered the first time, making it easier to order, quicker, with less time spent returning merchandise. Corps will be able to access statements and invoices online rather than having to request information and wait for it. 2) the funds currently diverted to cover the losses of Trade will be available for other pressing issues, and with the combined purchasing power of two territories, vendors will likely consider price cuts on the higher volume products. 3) it is expected the joint operation will break even, but in the event of profit both territories will share in the profit. 4) with the new uniform ordering process, uniforms can be received more quickly, and the accuracy of orders should increase. 5) the increased volumes will help control prices, while operating out of one warehouse with one set of administrative personnel will save cost and duplication of effort.
Advantages of web shopping
The decision to advance to a web-based shopping site is supported by several advantages offered by the new e-commerce technology. The chief advantage for the shopper is the ease in selecting and purchasing merchandise at their convenience. Current paper catalogues are limited in scope, but the Internet store will allow buyers to see everything available. Down the road, visitors to the site will even be able to hear selections from compact discs available for purchase, and view samples of music scores for selections they may want to purchase. In addition, customers who are not comfortable with the Internet will still be able to order by fax or through the same toll-free phone number.
Payment will be both safe and easy. Credit cards may be used for personal orders, and on account for Army corps and facilities. The website will use the secure payment system currently in use by other major online stores for personal purchases. Army units ordering online will order on their account with a password, with access to recent and past activity available online for review.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to a tradition, and we will miss our Trade store and the employees who have served us so faithfully for many years. The new Resource Connection will continue to serve with booths at family camps and other major territorial events. Plans are being made for a “try on” location for uniforms near Territorial Headquarters. Customer service satisfaction will be a major aim of the Resource Connection. The goal is to ship most orders within 24 hours on business days.
This new model for Trade will be an opportunity to increase ease in access and speed delivery for customers, as well as to help the Western Territory use the technology of the Internet to turn around significant annual financial losses. Upcoming articles will further explain the changes to come, and readers are invited to submit questions they would like to see addressed to James Boyd at Territorial Headquarters.