The Nike shoe rep brought 12 shoes out of his large black duffle bag. Wilson laid them out on the shoe fitting benches early one spring morning. “This is something entirely new” he said. “Nike has been working on this new line-up for awhile now and we are very sure they will be a huge hit. Look at each one, they all have air bags in them!” “Jeez, Wilson.” I said. “Air bags? Aren’t you reaching a bit here?”
Over the decades I worked with countless factory representatives. From shoes, to hunting optics, to sophisticated camera equipment to million dollar photo labs. Reps were my direct link to to the factory and good communication with reps was essential. Lifelong friendships developed even after we moved on to other employment or states. I am still in contact with a few of my more favorite reps. I also mourn for the few that have passed. Recently Sid Fox passed here in Grand Junction. At first he was my Satter rep, Satter sold a complete line of camera accessories, and later he was my Sigma lens rep while I was at 13 Photo. I know Sid for over 30 years. I miss him and the others that are no longer here.
When we got big enough I wanted to be a retailer of Kodak Professional Films. It was a completely different lineup of films not available to any retailer. We had enough requests I thought that we could sell it. I talked to my regular Kodak rep, and Roger gave me the pro reps name. When she finally contacted me she informed me that she could open us up as a dealer, but she was not allowed to visit the store until we consistently did $50,000.00 worth of business. I replied that I thought that was backwards. Come call on me and show me the right stuff to have at first, and by the time we did $50k worth of business I would know enough that she wouldn’t have to come anymore.
The Minolta camera rep, Jeff, comes in and is very excited to show me the new line-up for Christmas. A whole new style of camera was being introduced and they called it Maxxum. He pulled out a nice body called the Maxxum 7000 and asked me to hold it up and lightly press down on the shutter button. As I pressed down on the shutter, the lens automatically rotated into focus. Amazing! One of the first auto-focus camera!
The Prince Tennis rep comes in and pulls out of his bag a large white frame. And by large I mean huge. The face was immense! This frame was one of the very first oversized frames that everyone uses now. Advances in carbon-fiber and other exotic materials let them play around with new sizes. The Rules of Tennis were old enough that technology caught them by surprise.
In all of these short quips they start with a rep. Someone who wants you to succeed and prosper. Someone who travels a lot of miles to help you make money. Regretfully times have changed for a lot of these companies. They no longer support a contingent of over the road salespeople. Phone calls and regional manufacturers shows have taken the place of one-on-one contact. And I mourn that too.