|The beginning of a varsity jacket|
It was also common practice in our industry to "protect" accounts within a geographic area. If a salesman had a good account in a small town, he would usually not open another dealer in the same town. In larger cities nobody was given an exclusive, but a reasonable geographic distance was usually honored. Many potential customers, upon being told by the rep that we wouldn't sell them our product, would become hostile. Many threatened to get a lawyer and sue (in my 28 years nobody did). Most people are under the false assumption that a company must sell its' product to anyone who wants to buy it. You can refuse to sell to someone and be on solid legal ground.
Anyway, I digress. When I first started with the company in 1980, we had a customer in Columbus with five stores. They were by far my largest customer and they would buy upwards of 1,000 wool jackets a year. Having been well briefed on the policy of protecting good dealers, I found it odd that directly across the street from one of their stores was another, much smaller sporting goods store.
It is common practice in the garment business to buy a season ahead. We incentivized dealers to do this by having a program that offered them discounts and dating for placing an order for wool jackets in the spring, fall and Christmas time being the largest selling seasons for school and varsity jackets. The first time I called on the small store across the street from my biggest customer the owner asked if he would be able to buy wool jackets that year. While you can refuse to initially sell your product to a customer, once you've opened them as an account you can't refuse to sell an item from your general distribution catalog. So his question puzzled me.
I asked why he hadn't bought wool jackets previously. Turns out that my predecessor in the territory, having already pissed off the 800 lb. gorilla across the street by selling to this guy, desperately didn't want this smaller dealer to have wool jackets and threaten the big guy's wool business. His solution the previous year had been to tell the smaller dealer that he couldn't buy wool jackets because there was a world wide sheep shortage and we would only be able to sell to those committing to a 500 pc. minimum order, a quantity this guy probably wouldn't sell in 10 years.
I know the dealer had to be a dummy to buy that story, but after all these years I can't decide if the rep was a genius or an idiot.