EP4: How to Survive China Tariffs + Best Product Launch Practices | Paul Cosaro, CEO of Picnic Time

Welcome to Page 1:

As we mentioned in episode one, China trade tariffs rose to 25% in May 2018. These tariffs have been a big topic of discussion on the show because, from working with consumer product brands, we know that this profit margin squeeze is hitting everyone in the bottom line.

We want to hear from as many people in the consumer product industry as we can. No two brands are the same and so no two strategies will be either. But with new information comes new insights and we want to share as much expertise as we can on the subject to help those who are still finding their way forward.

What you’ll learn:

We sat down with Paul Cosaro of Picnic Time to discuss how he got into eCommerce, what his best product launching practices are (as well as pitfalls to avoid), and his advice for navigating the China tariffs. 


About our guest:

Paul Cosaro is a millennial father of 2 who was born and raised in Southern California. He is a USC Marshall School of Business graduate and worked as a management consultant in the Media & Entertainment sector for 3 years. Paul has owned his own eCommerce business, Truin Retail Group, from 2006-2011. During that time, he built and ran 3 eCommerce sites within 3 niche targets: tailgating, picnic, and camping. In 2011, Paul was given the opportunity to join the management team at Picnic Time, where he then sold his eCommerce business and jumped headfirst into the world of outdoor entertaining.


Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Why it’s a good idea to diversify your retail channels – 7:57
  • The most important skill Paul developed as a Business owner – 15:41
  • Best product launch practices across multiple retail channels – 21:34
  • How to convert sales on Big Box retail sites – 24:29
  • The lost art of launching a product – 24:52
  • The importance of D2C sales – 26:41
  • China tariffs success story – 28:29
  • The final piece of advice on how to scale your business – 33:51

Podcast Transcription

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Page One Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies to tariffs, influencer marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big box retailers or what we call our commerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.

Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page One Podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters. This is the podcast where I bring you the best and brightest leaders in consumer products. We’re going to be talking about Home Depot, Wayfair, Amazon, and a bunch of these other retailers. A lot of them we call our commerce, all of those retailers outside of Amazon. I’m the founder and CEO of Newair Appliances where I cut my teeth selling products online. Now I’ve started Retail Band where I hope to share my marketing and sales insights and help companies launch products, achieve better results on websites like Home Depot and Wayfair and Lowe’s and Walmart, and get better rankings. Today I’m excited to have an in person interview with Paul Cosaro from Picnic Time and we’ll get to learn all about Paul in a quick bio. Paul graduated from USC Marshall School of Business, worked as a management consultant, owned his own business from 2006 to 2011 eCommerce business.

Luke Peters: In 2011 he joined Picnic Time as a managing partner, works with another managing partner, Danny Corbucci who I know both of them from these quarterly meetings, business meetings that we all attend. Paul is an IHA board member, father of two and is part of a business group that I just mentioned called Core. So great to have you here, Paul.

Paul Cosaro: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Luke Peters: Awesome. So Paul, why don’t we just get a little bit of background just for the listener today and kind of describe the products you guys offer over at a Picnic Time.

Paul Cosaro: Okay. Yes. So Picnic Time Family of Brands. We’ve been in business for 37 years now and essentially our mission is to sell products that bring family and friends together to make memories and we’re basically selling happiness in some way, shape or form. But we started with picnic baskets, fully outfitted service for two, service for four, very romantic. Then we expanded over the years into multiple different categories. As of now, we have four different consumer facing brands. We have Picnic Time obviously for picnic products. Oniva, which in French means let’s go and that’s all of our outdoor products, so camping, tailgating, beach, coolers type of stuff. Toscana which is our indoor entertaining and serve ware, cutting boards, cheese boards, things like that. Legacy, which is our bar ware so beer, wine, spirits, accessories, wine totes and tabletop bars, things like that.

Luke Peters: You guys are also into licensing?

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, so we do a lot of licensing. We started with Coca-Cola back in the late ’90s and that kind of expanded as our products expanded into when we started doing more coolers and chairs and folding chairs and started getting more into tailgate, which went hand in hand with both collegiate sports and the NFL, which was kind of the white whale for us back in 2010 when we picked that up. From there we’ve gone into multiple other ones. We do Harley Davidson, we do MLB, NHL and then some of the bigger ones which is Disney and Star Wars. Those are our most recent ones and our most exciting ones right now.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Then just to give the audience a little bit of scale on the Picnic Time Family of Brands, and we’re just talking about this over lunch. So can you reshare just the size of the business footprint as far as warehouse or office size and then approximate number of teammates that you have?

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, so we fluctuate obviously with seasonality but we’re usually around 100,000 square feet of warehouse space because we pick, pack and ship all our own products. Then in terms of staff, we fluctuate between 100 and 150 depending on if it’s the holidays or not.

Luke Peters: Yeah, I hear you. We were just talking over lunch and Paul and I have a ton of similarities in the business, it’s a lot of the same customers that we’re selling to, very similar setups that we probably have to have on our EDI side and on the content side as well. So talking about the different brands and different customers that you’re selling into, why don’t we just get a quick split if that’s all right and talk about customer concentration. Do you want to run through maybe your top five and just give the listeners a basic idea of kind of how the revenue or the sales are split?

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s pretty much what you would expect. I mean Amazon’s obviously big, Wayfair, Overstock, and then the big, what we now call omni retailers, which is Bed Bath, Macy’s, Kohl’s, target. Those are some of the majors that we deal with.

Luke Peters: Cool. So Overstock, which is one … We’re trying to figure out Overstock. So you guys do pretty good with Overstock?

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, we’re always trying to figure them out. But they’ve been a work in progress as well I guess you’d say.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Heavily promotional, which can be a challenge, but a lot of people have some great success with Overstock. So maybe we’ll dive deep into that a little bit later. Then out of those that you talked about there, who is maybe your fastest growing channel or maybe the biggest surprise that’s showing you some good growth and opportunity?

Paul Cosaro: Oh, good question. I think it all depends on who’s successful at the time. We were struggling with Wayfair for while, because I think they were still trying to figure out whole approach, right? So but now it’s kind of turned a corner where I think they’ve kind of settled in and a lot of the big investments that they’re making over the past few years have kind of, they’ve kind of hit the ground running. So we’re trying to piggyback off that. So Wayfair’s one that’s growing pretty quickly? Yeah, I mean Amazon’s always a beast. There’s lots of little ones. The new, as you probably know, it’s always fun to find that next kind of big player who you think is going to kind of reinvent the game or shake it up, what do they call them? Disruptors who are going to come in and say, “We’re going to do this a different way, a new.” Jet kind of did that for a while and then they got sucked up.

Paul Cosaro: So we’re always keeping our eye out for those right now. I don’t think there’s any that are … It’s a tough climate to kind of jump in right now. But I see that in the future there’s going to be some room for new players.

Luke Peters: Yeah. But at the same time you guys are really diversified. So I mean, you’re in it all day. I don’t know if you think of it that way. I had a lot of friends who only have Amazon, maybe one or two others.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, I mean, that’s the goal, right? I always use the Mad Men, I don’t know if you watch Mad Men, but the Mad Men analogy where they had one huge account at the ad agency, Lucky Strike, and they walked away and they literally all looked at each other like, “What the hell do we do now?” So you try to avoid the Lucky Strike problem. So we try to diversify as much as possible.

Luke Peters: Okay, awesome. That’s super helpful. So that’s good. We got a breakdown of the business and the types of products. So why don’t we kind of go back really quick and just start with you, how you got into this business. You were running your own business. You’re doing management consulting afterschool, then you’re running your own eCom business and then you joined.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah. My father is one of the founders of Picnic Time. So he came over, immigrant from Italy. He had nothing, trying to live the American dream. He came over and they, him and his business partner who he met when they were working on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in the ’70s which I’m sure must have been a bunch of fun, but they met and they would always talk about, “We got to open our own business. We got to live the American dream. We got to get off the ship.” They finally got an opportunity to come and open a little wine and cheese shop in Southern California. They opened it up and they were selling gourmet wine and cheese back when you couldn’t buy wine in a supermarket. So it was kind of a good time for them. People started coming in and saying, “You have everything perfect for a picnic, just not a picnic basket.” So they said, “Ah, it’s an opportunity.” So they went and looked and there was nowhere that they could source an outfitted picnic basket that wasn’t a ridiculous amount of money. I think there’s one other company at that time based out of the UK.

Paul Cosaro: So they bought a couple of those really expensive ones, put it in the store and it attracted a lot of attention. But people once they saw the price tag said, “No, thanks.” So they did it themselves. They went overseas. I think it was probably at that time it was the Philippines and sourced empty baskets, woven baskets, and then like all great companies, they backed a container of empty baskets into my dad’s garage and started acquiring the help of friends and family to stitch the backings in and put the elastic in and forks, knives, plates, spoons and napkins in there and they started selling them out of their store and it became popular. So they brought it to trade shows and then now here we are. So that’s the background of the company. I know probably a little bit off track from the question, but this was all while I was growing up that I saw this happening.

Paul Cosaro: So obviously kind of ingrained in me the desire to own my own business. I was always intrigued by business and the opportunities and the limitless opportunities that there was. People with friends would say like, “Oh, I’m going to get into … I want to become a physical therapist.” I’m like, “That’s great, but if it doesn’t work out then what are you going to do?” Where business just kind of flows through everything. So I went to USC right on and got into the undergraduate business scholar program, which was exciting for me. So I met a lot of people there and decided that I wasn’t going to start a business right out of college because that’s difficult to do. I mean some people definitely do it, but I wanted to kind of cut my teeth a little bit and learn about different businesses and the best way to do that was in management consulting. So I got to work for tons of different companies and learn different ways that they approach problems and obstacles.

Paul Cosaro: I did that for a while and then I worked in the entertainment industry, Lionsgate Entertainment for a few years and that was on the retail side. So that gave me some good understanding of how these big businesses deal with big retailers. So my accounts were Best Buy, Target, Walmart and a little upstart called Amazon. So I had a lot of experience dealing with them going out to Minneapolis and Bentonville, Arkansas, beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas and up to Seattle. At that same time on the side, what I started doing is in 2005 I wrote a business plan to start my own eCom business and it was kind of based on Wayfair, which actually bringing it full circle.

Luke Peters: You could have been those guys.

Paul Cosaro: I could have been.

Luke Peters: So close.

Paul Cosaro: I actually was a competitor of theirs for a very brief time before they blew up. But when they were CSN stores-

Luke Peters: Yeah, I remember that.

Paul Cosaro: I took a similar approach to their model. So my whole goal was to create … So they were doing super specific like Adirondackchairs.com.

Luke Peters: They had like 200 domains and Google is ranking all of those domains.

Paul Cosaro: Telescopes.com, yeah. So I thought, Amazon’s trying to do everything. CSN is trying to do everything but in a different format, super niche specific. I saw that there was an opening in the broader niche, so I wanted to give people one stop shops for specific categories or hobbies. So I started, and my first website was nationaltailgate.com which was everything for tailgating. I worked with all, I had hundreds of different products from grills to TVs to everything. Then shockingly, I got into … I started a picnic website.

Luke Peters: A competition to your parents.

Paul Cosaro: I had a connection there.

Luke Peters: They must have loved that.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah. Then I opened a camping website and that’s where I was at. I brought on a partner there who was a web developer. So that worked out perfectly. So it was growing pretty quickly. Then that’s when my dad’s business partner, Mario, he … Because I’d never expected to take over the family business. So my dad would always say, “You’ve got bigger fish to fry. You can do bigger and better things.” His whole thing was, “I’m going to sell this company because I don’t want to have to worry about it and I just want to sell it and go to some beach and drink a pina colada.” So I always had that in my head that’s like, “I’m going to do my own thing.” Around the big recession, 2008, 2009, that’s when they started realizing like, “We might not be able to get what we want for this business that we built and we put so much blood, sweat and tears into Picnic Time over the past 30 some years.”

Paul Cosaro: So my dad was still against it for the same reasons that he didn’t want to have to worry about it if I took over. But his business partner was adamant. So he started, what we like to joke now as stalking me to come work there. Yeah, I was always deferring to my dad and then finally in 2010, he finally gave in and it was a huge … It was an honor.

Luke Peters: Yeah. You put your time in already, so it’s not like you came in right out of school.

Paul Cosaro: Exactly.

Luke Peters: You probably had a lot to add.

Paul Cosaro: Exactly. It’s hard. I mean, I’m sure people can understand, but it’s hard coming into a business that’s already thriving and there’s a core of people and then all sudden who’s this new guy? He’s just the son of the owner. You still have that feeling now where it’s like, “Okay, well. Oh, well you just took over for your family business.”

Luke Peters: He’s got to prove yourself everyday probably.

Paul Cosaro: Exactly. It makes you work just as hard, if not harder, to kind of prove that like you said and earn people’s respect and trust and so I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that. Even now, eight, nine years later, it still motivates me, so.

Luke Peters: So that’s awesome. That’s a great story. So second generation then.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah. Second generation. Yeah.

Luke Peters: That’s cool. Your dad?

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, my dad is … He comes in to give me a hard time every once in a while. It’s funny.

Luke Peters: Yeah, miss his job.

Paul Cosaro: He does. His one job a couple of days a week. He comes in for a few hours and he calls people for money. So he is the head of the AR department, I guess you could say.

Luke Peters: Yeah, old school.

Paul Cosaro: So with an Italian accent, you can imagine how fun that gets sometimes.

Luke Peters: There you go. That’s the best collections team. That’s awesome. Okay, that’s a great story. Awesome family business story. So talking about that and looping back into kind of what the audience might be able to take out of it, what do you think is your number one thing for management consulting? You learned a lot of things. You were with a lot of companies. But sometimes people who are just building a company can be narrow focused, because that’s all we know maybe. Then you had this nice broad view of things for management consultant. So what could you maybe suggest is the best thing you learned there that you bring to Picnic Time right now?

Paul Cosaro: I think, I had to pick a best, it would probably be attention to detail and I think that’s kind of broad, but when it comes down to it, when you’re dealing, no matter what company or companies you’re dealing with, if you don’t have your ducks in a row and you don’t put thought into it before getting into something, it’s going to come back to bite you. So I learned that on multiple jobs. You go in and you pitch these … I came in at the end of when consulting was that. It was just time and expense then you can just bill them for, you go out to steak dinners and bill the client and they’re like, “Whatever.” I was at the end of that and it was the beginning of now fixed rate jobs.

Paul Cosaro: That was a huge shift because it’s like now you really have to do your due diligence ahead of time, know what you’re going in, what job you’re going to do and how long it’s going to take you. Because if you get the customer to sign off and you don’t have your stuff together, you’re going to end up eating that. It’s going to eat away at the profits immediately.

Luke Peters: Yeah, makes sense.

Paul Cosaro: So having that preparation then and then maintaining that attention to detail and not just kind of letting it fly is kind of that’s kind of what I learned with the management consulting is you have to be on point. Otherwise, you’ll get chewed up and spit out.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Good advice. Going back into the products, we talked about channels and we’re at the exciting channels, where and how diversified you guys are. What would you call your best product category?

Paul Cosaro: I mean, I always say this is not our biggest category by a long shot, but picnic is our, it’s our thing. Our tagline for that brand is we know picnic and we’re determined to be the leader in picnic, to be the trendsetter, to be the trusted brand there. I still think we’ve got a ways to go. I mean, there’s not many others out there just because it’s not a massive business. Like I said, it’s not our biggest category, but it’s something that we pride ourselves on and we want to be the best at and we should know the most about, so.

Luke Peters: Well, it’s in your name, so it’s got to be the one.

Paul Cosaro: It helps.

Luke Peters: It helps. Then talking about licensing, what is the share of licensing to total business percentage wise? How big of a segment is it?

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, it definitely fluctuates because it depends on certain orders and stuff like that. But I would say of our eCom business directly, I mean I would say it’s probably like 30% of the business. It’s a majority of the work,

Luke Peters: Yeah, I bet.

Paul Cosaro: It’s a huge majority of the SKUs.

Luke Peters: Hopefully bigger margin because of all the work involved.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, hopefully until, yeah, they-

Luke Peters: They pay your royalties.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, the royalty.

Luke Peters: Minimums and all that stuff.

Paul Cosaro: Exactly. So it’s a good thing. I mean, licensing is one of those things that is a beast. I’m sure you have experienced in it too, but when you get into sports licensing, especially, where you got teams and you got logo changes where like they’ll send out a logo change for the Baylor Bears and it’s literally they’ll show me the old version and the new version and I’m just looking at it like there’s no difference. But they’re passionate about their logo, their school, their colors. Colors is another thing where it’s like if your printer doesn’t print the right shade of orange for University of Tennessee, you’re in big trouble. So it’s little things you don’t think about, but-

Luke Peters: A lot of compliance.

Paul Cosaro: Oh yeah. But it’s fun. It’s a fun thing. Employees rally around it, people are passionate about their sports team or their favorite princess or whatever you, what have you. But it’s a fun business to be in. It keeps it exciting.

Luke Peters: Yeah. On our end, we seen a big movement towards licensed products. I mean, it’s always been a trend, I think. As companies get bigger and they can afford to get into these licensing deals, but definitely I can testify it’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of, even on the back end and the accounting end and on the marketing and marketing assets that are involved and we could probably do a whole episode just on licensing, but definitely worth it. I mean, some companies just build themselves around a licensed brand and they run things that way. Let’s talk about product launches. What I kind of want to understand is from start to finish, and I guess what I want to pull out of here is I want to kind of really focus this around valuable nuggets that the audience can get.

Luke Peters: So as you guys have decided on a new product, maybe we can … It’s a certain kind of a seat or a picnic basket and you bringing it in, you’re having to presumably make marketing assets and then taking it to market. Why don’t you walk us through that whole process and where you guys feel you’re adding the most value along the way? We can break that down as well.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, for sure. Definitely still a work in progress. I mean, this sounds like we can use your help too the more I talked to you about it, but it’s difficult because you’ve got to cater to a bunch of, like you said, we’re diversified so you got to cater to a bunch of different customers who need different things and want different thing. So product launches are tough because as we were talking about earlier today, you spend so much time focusing on the product and making it perfect and making sure the consumer is going to want it and is going to value it and they’re going to want to part with their precious dollars and then all of a sudden you get it in, it’s beautiful and it’s sitting on your shelf in your warehouse.

Luke Peters: Yeah. I’ve seen that.

Paul Cosaro: It is collecting dust and that dust is expensive. Getting it to the consumers’ eyeballs is the biggest obstacle to me. I mean, once they see it, now all of a sudden you have an opportunity for them to buy it. If they don’t see it, if they don’t know about that product, you’re in big trouble, right? It happens all the time. It used to be if it’s not on the shelf in Target or Walmart or Bed Bath, no one’s going to buy it. But now the internet’s come around and it’s expanded people’s choices. But at the same time, I think now it’s become, if it’s on the first page of Amazon results, then you’d see it. Otherwise you still don’t know about it. So instead of the fight now to get Target or Bed Bath or whoever, Walmart, to buy your product, now it’s a struggle to get it in front of their eyeballs and the competition’s fierce.

Paul Cosaro: So that’s the hard part. I think launching it is there’s so many things involved. You’ve got the marketing aspect. You’ve got just the product aspect. There’s that funnel that everybody talks about that takes it from getting them to see it first then getting them to convert and pay for it. So the first step is obviously to make sure that once people do see it, because you don’t want to spend a ton of money driving people to a product page and then saying, “Well, what does this do?” Or, “How do I use this? Why should I spend money on this?” You want to make sure that by the time they get there, they know, “Okay this is what I’m getting. This is why it’s worth this much.” And assets, assets, assets. We put a lot of emphasis on our images and video and I know you do too.

Luke Peters: What we’ve seen is that certain retailers, it’s easier to get that up with and some of them take forever.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah.

Luke Peters: So are you guys launching first with Amazon because they’re kind of the easier, Wayfair’s really easy to work with. Are you seeing the same thing?

Paul Cosaro: That’s just how it turns out. They’ve made it easy for us to get as much as possible. The thing is this podcast is a lot around non-Amazon. I think there’s a huge opportunity there because Amazon’s figured it out. But the others haven’t. They’re trying to. I mean, Wayfair’s desperately trying to and I applaud them for it, but there’s other ones where, I mean, you’re looking at Bed Bath & Beyond today. I mean, they just struggle.

Luke Peters: They make it hard. They make it very hard.

Paul Cosaro: Exactly. There’s such a lesson to be learned there and I just think they’re trying not to. It just seems almost like they’re running in the opposite direction and they don’t have to do everything the way Amazon does, but learn the key lessons. So when we’re talking about getting the person to convert and buy the stuff, it’s like let us put as many images up. That’s how people touch and feel these days is with their eyes. Start driving people to write reviews because that works. putas much content on there and put the right content on there. That’s what’s important. I always tell people this in my office, it’s they’ve got to … Once they get there, they got to buy it and then they’ve also got to get there. I think a lost art is even the description of a product.

Paul Cosaro: I think that’s something where you could have the perfect product, perfect images, everything like that. But if you’re searching for something and you can’t find it, you’re not clicking on it. So that’s the next step. It’s like first is making sure you have everything so that once they get to it, they’ll buy it. The step before that is getting people to see it. Which it’s the constant struggle.

Luke Peters: Yeah, I think everybody has that struggle. Then along that road of launching a product, you guys have to think about reviews. So do you guys do any specific review programs with any of the retailers?

Paul Cosaro: Not really. I mean, I take that back. We don’t do any of the third party stuff, but we’ve definitely dabbled in the review programs that they have like it’s called Hey, Bullseye on Target. What’s the HD?

Luke Peters: They each have their own.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, they have all their fun names. So we do do that. Yeah. Because it’s important.

Luke Peters: They can be expensive.

Paul Cosaro: They’re expensive, they take time.

Luke Peters: Almost disincentivize them in a way, right? Because the reviews are good for them and they’re kind of some of the retailers are turning into like a profit center in a sense when-

Paul Cosaro: Yeah. It’s dangerous too. I mean, it’s risky. Like you said, it’s expensive, but hopefully you’ve done all your QA and everything. But every year there’s always a situation where a product goes to market and it’s like, “Oh, that, we should have double stitched that strap instead of single,” or something like that and then all of a sudden you’re paying to get bad reviews, which, not that that’s ever happened to us, but-

Luke Peters: I could, it just hasn’t.

Paul Cosaro: It could. So it’s risky. So it’s not only you’re forking over a ton of dollars, but it’s for somewhat of an unknown.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Then what percent of your total sales are direct to consumer from your own website?

Paul Cosaro: Very small. We’re very passive when it comes to that. But we find it important because, like I said, we have so many SKUs and so many products that even though Amazon and they probably in some way shape or form do, whether it’s because somebody is selling it on a marketplace, have all of our products, there’s a lot of people out there who find comfort in being able to go to the source to get their products. They feel it’s trustworthy. They feel like if there’s a problem they can come back to us, which they can. So we’ve definitely picked that up over time. That’s something that’s more important to us.

Luke Peters: Since you’re doing that, there are definitely some good review hacks, and not even hacks, but they’re just legitimate reviews syndication from your own website to avoid having to do the individual retailer review. I know the programs you’re talking about, they can get expensive so yeah. So we can jump into that in another episode as well. But that’s all about if you are doing, this is for the audience, if you are doing some direct to consumer or if you’re not doing any, you should. Because number one, you’re not competing with your biggest suppliers because they’re so much bigger. So it’s not even a competition. You don’t have to beat them on price, therefore they won’t care. You’re just offering the product to the consumer directly, but you’re not promoting it as deeply as they might.

Luke Peters: But the thing is those orders can turn into reviews that you can manage and you can have a direct connection with that consumer. Then when you get the review through a few different review networks, they can be syndicated out to retailers. So it becomes a big advantage and this is specifically for product launches. It can be a big deal for … Just want the audience to know that side of it. Cool. So that takes us kind of to the next topic that I kind of wanted to quickly jump into and that’s tariffs. I know that’s on everybody’s mind right now.

Paul Cosaro: My favorite.

Luke Peters: Yeah, everybody’s favorite. We’re just talking about tariffs and I don’t know if you just want to quickly walk us through your experience and I guess focus it maybe around the one biggest thing you learned that made you successful through this tariff situation that we’re in right now.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, it’s been a wild ride so far. Something that really came out of nowhere. Didn’t think that, I don’t think anybody expected it, but-

Luke Peters: We all thought they were going to go away.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, I didn’t even think they were going to come in the first place, but it’s been crazy. You think that things are crazy before stuff like this happens and then you realize that you haven’t even scratched the surface. So it’s been fun dealing with it. But I think to answer your question, what … The biggest thing that jumped out to us in terms of dealing with them is just circling back to that attention to detail. It’s like whatever you choose to do, and everybody’s doing something different, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet at all, but whatever you choose to do, you got to do it and you’ve got to push your resources behind it. You can’t dip your toe in the water because there’s no right answer.

Paul Cosaro: I think a lot of people at the beginning were a little hesitant. There’s a lot of wait and see. I think that that is not the right approach because that wait and see just turns into more wait and see, and you got to pick a path and attack it. I mean, just like everything else in life really, you just can’t, you can’t half ass it. So I think that’s was I learned is like, you got to make your decision and make it happen. People will see that and respect that and whatever obstacle you run into, which you will run into obstacles, you just got to be quick to deal with it.

Luke Peters: Yeah. I think that’s great advice. We were talking about that and I guess summing it up is just you’re really decisive and you guys acted really quick and protected the brand.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah.

Luke Peters: It’s a tariff. So it’s not like it’s people are just going out and trying to get extra margin. All of us brands are just trying to protect ourselves and it’s kind of literally a war going on. Awesome. That’s a great nugget for the audience. You’ve shared a lot of things about the company, so kind of here I want to talk about what your biggest win was in the past year. If you could sum it up into one thing, I’d like to hear that.

Paul Cosaro: Oh man, I’ll be a contrarian and I’ll say our biggest win was the tariffs. As weird as that sounds.

Luke Peters: It sounds weird.

Paul Cosaro: I just think how we dealt with it in terms of the approach we took and how … It magnified the importance of your relationship with your customers, your relationship with your suppliers, the grit and determination of your company as a whole, your employees. Everything really kind of gets magnified, like I said, when that adversity hits. I was just so impressed with how we kind of banded together. It kind of became this us versus them, them being the tariffs, and you learn to kind of work with what you’ve got. That to me, looking back over the past year, and again I have no clue what’s going to happen in the future, but where we’re at today versus where we were at 11 months ago when we found out, I remember walking into my general manager’s office and he looks at me, he’s like, “You know those tariffs they’ve been mumbling about? Yeah, that’s going to hit about 65% of our products.” I said, “Oh crap, what are we going to do?”

Paul Cosaro: From there to here, it’s mind blowing what we’ve accomplished in terms of dealing with it. Because going back to your previous question, the money side of it is obviously huge. We’re paying ridiculous sums of money to the government every practically day when things come in. But it’s the amount of work. You have to, if you’re going to change prices, you got to focus on changing those prices. If you’re going to source in new areas, you got to do that. This is all time that you would have been focused on developing new products, selling more stuff to your customers, building those relationships. Instead, it’s like now I’ve got a job on top of a job. So it’s amazing that what you can accomplish when you really try to, when you face that adversity and you just face it head on. So that’s what I would say is our biggest win is dealing with this.

Luke Peters: Yeah. You bring up an excellent point. It is a huge disruption. It takes everybody off their game. I mean, a lot of relationships can go negative when you’re trying to have a great relationship with your business partners and retail partners, and then it’s about tariffs and price increases. That’s actually kind of an untalked about part of the tariff situation. I mean, everybody’s fighting for prices, but you bring up … It’s huge disruption within a company and everybody’s having to kind of change and it’s a bunch of fire drills and every time a tweet comes out there’s something new and now you’ve got another 5% I guess happening in October.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, yeah.

Luke Peters: So yeah, we may have to go back out and get more on that because every … It’s a lot. All this is adding up. So that’s a excellent comment there. What is something actionable that, for our listeners here, that leaders could try to implement in their business? This could just be overall, just how you think about business, something you think that you’re skilled at or maybe you’ve learned along the way and just looking for that actionable tip of advice here.

Paul Cosaro: Nothing mind blowing that I’m going to say that other people haven’t said, you can’t read a new book, but just knowing from practice and the years that I’ve had doing this is focus on the people, the people side of it is critical. Your company is only going to get as far as the people who are manning the ship and we focus on that big time at Picnic Time. It’s all about the people. Having the right people and the people focused on why you do what you do because you could have the smartest demand planner or controller or marketing person on the planet. But if they’re not bought into what you do and who you are as a company, you’re in trouble.

Paul Cosaro: So focus on the people. Make sure you’ve got the right people and make sure that people are on board and you’ve got to relentlessly make sure that they’re appreciated, their mentored, they’re trained, they’re given the tools that they need to be successful, because that’s how you get where you are. I mean, if it was me as a one man show, I mean, I’d be burnt out long, long ago. I know you understand that too. It’s about the people that you put around you. So that’s what I would say.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a big family and we both liked sports, so it’s kind of like you want to have the best team, you the best team then us as the coaches, we can still be lousy coaches and the team will do good.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, no. Well, that brings up a funny point because I always get … I see you looking at my LinkedIn print out profile there.

Luke Peters: Yeah, yeah. I got it right here.

Paul Cosaro: Always, everybody get it every single call and I did it kind of as a joke about three, four years ago where I put my title in my email.

Luke Peters: Captain Picnic.

Paul Cosaro: I post Captain Picnic. Everybody takes what they want from that. It’s been made even better by the Captain Morgan commercials. But a lot of people think like, “Oh, is that like your superhero alter ego Captain Picnic?” But what it really is, I came up with it because I was goofing around, but I’m like, “I’m the captain of this team. I’m not the coach because I’m on the field. I’m playing. I might have C on my jersey or whatever sport you’re playing, but I’m in there. I want to be part of it, especially now in baseball where the manager is just like basically they say is useless these days because of all these sabermetrics and whatever. But no, that’s the impetus behind my Captain Picnic name is I’m the captain of the team. So I like that sports analogy cause that’s how I look at it.

Luke Peters: Yeah. I mean, it’s real life and yeah, so definitely something that I think about and it’s always about the people. So yeah, that’s a great answer there. Cool. This has been a lot of fun. It’s awesome having you in person here.

Paul Cosaro: Yeah, it’s great.

Luke Peters: Great chatting at lunch and learning about all the things you do and how similar you guys are to us. Just for the audience, we’re talking about we’re using the same ocean freight companies and then Paul’s looking at a PIM, which is a product information management tool and these are things that we are looking at. His ERP is similar as like the final two of the … Right now we’re using NetSuite and his solution was the other one we were looking at and on and on and on. Just about EDI and there’s so many different cool things we could have a whole show on, technical show on each of those individual things. So it’s great having you here. How can listeners find you, contact you, learn more about you? Anywhere you want to point them, LinkedIn maybe or?

Paul Cosaro: Yes, you can probably find me on LinkedIn but follow Picnic Time on social at Picnic Time. Yeah, I’m easy to track down. If you shoot us an email info@picnictime.com, I’m sure they’ll know where to find me. Yeah.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Thanks for that, Paul. It’s a lot of fun. Thanks everybody for joining us on the Page One Podcast sponsored by Retail Band. If you’re interested in launching a product or you need help launching a product or you need help with product reviews, or you want to get involved with influencer marketing and see how we can help you guys take a product to market quicker, syndicate reviews across these retailers, contact me. This is what we do. We’re passionate about it, and we can do something that we call speed to sale, which means when that inventory comes in, as we were talking about earlier, it’s not collecting dust and we turn that into cash. Anyways, that’s it for today. Thanks very much.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Page One Podcast with Luke Peters. If you like our show and want to know more, check out our other segments. Also, please help us out by leaving us a rating on iTunes. Want to learn more about our commerce, check out www.retailband.com to get more great tips and tricks on how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big box retailers.


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