Floored by a Creative Barter Solution

The Challenge

Books-A-Million (BAM) had a multimillion-dollar problem – an inventory of unsold gift products from a manufacturer that refused to take them back. The CFO was prepared to accept the loss and liquidate them until he was approached with a unique solution: sell all the items at once to one buyer in exchange for trade credit, which could be used toward the purchase of products and services needed to run the business.

How ICON Uncovered Value

As a mass-market discount retailer, BAM had minimal budget for media spending, so the typical form of trade credit redemption – consumer advertising – would use up only a small portion of the credit bank. But as a large retail chain with more than 200 points and sales approaching a half-billion dollars, there were other opportunities. Using trade credit, new purchasing opportunities began to unfold: warehousing supplies… store materials… point-of-purchase displays… and the “big two” – freight and transportation. To get things rolling, ICON spent time educating suppliers about corporate barter and the competitive advantages of accepting trade credit for its services. One highly successful example of this is flooring. Carpeting is a major image component for the 200-store chain that consistently offers a friendly, clean and modern environment. As an annual expense sent out to bid, flooring is a fantastic opportunity to integrate trade credit as partial payment. Another case in point: garbage. Bookstores go through piles of the packaging, boxes and crates that hold the books and products the stores sell, making waste-management suppliers key partners in BAM’s success and efficiency.

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The Results

Books-A-Million now has a long-term contract with a carpet supplier, a waste-management company and dozens of other suppliers willing and eager to accept combinations of cash and trade credit for services.