When we were opening The Polish Pottery Shoppe, we knew that we needed to have pottery to sell, but we first had to decide what types of pottery should we carry? What patterns and shapes should we offer when opening our doors for the first time? A daunting task for any new business owner, but fortunately we had help from our supplier choosing the best types of dinnerware and Polish place settings.
The next important question was how much should we start off with? What does $10,000 worth of Polish Pottery inventory look like in a retail store? That was the amount of our very first order and, once unboxed, we quickly discovered it wasn’t enough. Another $5000 of pottery was quickly ordered. Years have passed and today we have an inventory on hand of many, many times that initial $15,000 of beginning inventory.
The on-going challenge is ordering relevant shapes and patterns to continue offering a fresh, unique product to offer our customers the best Polish Pottery selection. We work hard to continue carrying our tried and true patterns and at the same time, bring in new and different pieces to generate interest and excitement.
Order lead times for Polish Pottery vary by brand and supplier. One February we wrote an email to our Kalich distributor that started like this, “Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl this year. My Christmas list is….” and our order for the following Christmas season was attached. Fortunately, the order was filled. Kalich is a small company and does not produce a lot. Their designs and shapes are so beautiful and artistic we are always thrilled to get their pottery.
We receive several large orders each year. These shipments include over 100 boxes of pottery. Each box is labeled with its contents. It seems like we are always unpacking. But that’s good news for our customers. Inventory is always rotating and changing with each season.
Much of our inventory comes from Polish Pottery distributors that are in the United States. However, we do order from some Polish Pottery companies direct in Poland. Here’s how that process works.
We start by emailing an order to one of our suppliers. Our orders include the patterns we want in each shape and the quantity of each. We use a matrix style order sheet. The company emails us back with an order total and an anticipated production date.
Some companies require a deposit to be added to their production schedule. The production date can be anywhere from four to ten months away, depending on the company and time of year. When the order is in production, we will receive another email from the company with an anticipated completion date.
While the pottery is in production we inform our import/export company of the expected date of completion. They, in turn, communicate with their contact in Poland who will pick up the pottery when it is ready.
When the pottery is picked up, it goes to a warehouse to await the vessel it is scheduled to ship on. The pottery could ship from Germany, Poland, or other ports in the region.
In the meantime, we receive our actual invoice from the Polish Pottery company. We then trot off to the bank and send money by wire to their Polish bank. In addition to the invoice, we receive a packing list telling us exactly which pieces (by pattern and design) are in each box. The number of boxes, pallets, etc. that are in our order.
We use that information to begin communication with our customs agent and start working on our customs paperwork which includes import duties (taxes). Customs paperwork requires each piece of pottery be identified by import category (i.e. plates, mugs, etc), cost, and even FDA code. Since pottery is food safe, the FDA gets involved.
When the vessel carrying our pottery shipment leaves port, it is a two to three week journey to North America. It could arrive in New York, Canada, New Orleans, or another port.
Upon arrival in the U.S. we are notified and our customs agent submits the paperwork. Once the paperwork is approved, the pottery is placed on a truck and heads straight to us. The pallets are usually unloaded in our parking lot and we have extra hands here to bring it inside, organize the chaos of boxes and begin the unpacking process.
It's a big process to decide on what types and how much inventory to order and it's an even bigger process to place our orders and get them delivered, but it's worth all that work when we see how happy it makes our customers to leave with a special piece of Polish Pottery that their family will enjoy.