4 Attributes That
Set Zanders Apart


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With an unwavering commitment to providing complete retailer support, Zanders Sporting Goods continues to refine its business practices while always seeking to innovate and streamline its operations.

Celebrating 60 years in business in 2022, Zanders’ diverse product portfolio of more than 40,000 SKUs — combined with its new, streamlined warehouse — gives the Sparta, Ill.-based wholesale distributor an enviable one-two punch to serve dealers and exceed their expectations on a daily basis. This drive to excel is embodied by company President and Chief Operations Officer Stefanie Zanders, who shared four ways Zanders Sporting Goods stands out in the two-step distribution space.

1. 100% Woman-Owned, But “Standing Out” Doesn’t Stop There

Not only is Zanders a family-owned company, but it’s a 100% woman-owned company — giving it a unique perspective.

When Zanders became a 100% woman-owned company in Aug. 2018, Stefanie stated: “Women in the firearms and outdoors industries are becoming more commonplace and we’re thrilled to join the ever-growing number of companies owned by visionary women.”

A lot has changed for the industry in the past four years, but one constant has been Stefanie’s aim to ensure Zanders Sporting Goods stands out through its service — rather than its ownership.

“Being different from your competitors is a good thing, no matter what industry you’re in,” she noted. “In this industry it’s certainly an attention grabber. However, we have always strived to ‘stand out’ in the way Zanders has always operated — woman-owned or otherwise.”

Stefanie shared this is achieved by how Zanders Sporting Goods views its customers.

“Being committed to our customers, treating them as a true business partner and exercising fair and honest business practices has always been a bedrock principle of ours,” she added.

Stefanie Zanders

2. Responsiveness To Market Changes

One of the hallmarks of the firearms industry is its cyclical nature. Being in business for 60 years, the Zanders Sporting Goods team has adapted to various peaks and valleys thanks, in part, to its nimbleness. As a family-owned company, critical decisions can be made quickly.

“All businesses have to deal with their share of politics whether publicly traded or family owned,” Stefanie said. “There’s a certain level of relief to be able to make decisions without having to wait for formal approval from various levels within an organization. That being said, not all decisions are unanimous or even well-received within the family.”

One such decision came in 2010 — when Stefanie spearheaded Zanders’ relocation to its modern, 150,000 sq. ft. facility in Sparta. Prior to the move, it was a standard practice for order pickers in the warehouse to employ shopping carts during the fulfillment process. Once the move to Sparta got underway, the question was raised by a family member: “Where will the shopping carts go at the new facility?” This led to a lengthy debate — but once the family member saw the increased space and new accessory carousel system in action (which increased Zanders’ ability to process orders quickly) the question was answered soundly.

Stefanie shared the trust displayed between family members enables Zanders Sporting Goods to keep moving forward, together.
“There’s a level of trust and confidence — and really, a tenacity — this family has that sets us apart,” Stefanie said. “All of this makes us nimbler in our approach to optimizing our operations.”

3. Identifying (And Implementing) Best Practices

Another strength of Zanders’ is being able to identify (and then implement) new technologies into its business operations. Early in Stefanie’s tenure at the company, she traveled extensively throughout the U.S. to observe how warehouses in other industries were being run — and retained the best components of each to integrate into Zanders’ business model.

“Early on, technology was advancing — and like any organization during that time, you had to adapt,” she recalled. “I made many trips to various warehouses throughout the country, looking at different processes and systems and trying to find what would fit our organization the best.”

Stefanie shared one memorable source of inspiration, and how she convinced the older generation of Zanders family owners to implement it.

Being committed to our customers, treating them as a true business partner and exercising fair and honest business practices has always been a bedrock PRINCIPLE of ours.”

Stefanie Zanders, President & COO
Zanders Sporting Goods
Sparta, Ill.

“When it came to scouting new technology, I had to make it work with a limited budget and ultimately sell it to my father and two aunts — who shared a different mindset in regards to how technology is used,” she said. “I remember getting them in a car and driving to Nebraska to visit a company that specialized in plumbing supplies. Their number-one selling item was the wax ring that goes underneath the toilet — who would have thought. That made for an interesting ride home, but we did implement the software.”

Years later, this spirit of identifying and implementing new technologies played out during a critical period in the company’s history. At the height of the pandemic shutdowns and social unrest in the summer of 2020, Zanders Sporting Goods followed through on a pre-planned transition to a revamped Warehouse Management System (WMS) — significantly upgrading its software and machinery.

While not an ideal time to conduct such an overhaul, given the uncertainty and unprecedented wave of demand, the new WMS enabled Zanders to serve customers in greater volumes, and did so efficiently and with greater precision. Additional enhancements were made last year to further fine tune the cutting-edge system.

Zanders’ Sparta, Ill., headquarters spans 150,000 sq. ft., operating a cutting-edge
Warehouse Management System to fulfill orders quickly and accurately.

4. Leadership In The Two-Step Distribution Space

Taking a leadership role in the two-step distribution model, Stefanie is a member of the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) board of directors, a position she has held since 2016.

“Growing up and working in a family business your entire life certainly has its benefits, but also some limitations,” she said. “Being on the NASGW board of directors has been a privilege and has allowed me to work and meet with so many influential people within and outside of the industry.”

Being a part of the NASGW’s board of directors showcases Zanders’ willingness to support and strengthen the two-step distribution model.

“One of the NASGW’s primary goals is to support and promote the importance of two-step distribution,” Stefanie said.
“Additionally, NASGW works on behalf of the wholesalers to liaison with manufacturers and institute various initiatives and business processes. One example is the new SCOPE program which analyzes and collects data from the complete supply chain — allowing us greater visibility to market conditions and ultimately gives us the tools to better serve our customers.”

Speaking of SCOPE, Zanders Sporting Goods is one of the leading distributors that has signed on to support the SCOPE DLX (Distributor Link Exchange) program. SCOPE DLX is a reporting and analytics tool that showcases distributor shipments and inventory — giving manufacturers real-time insights into how their products are moving throughout the distribution channel.

This added transparency serves to strengthen Zanders Sporting Goods’ relationships with vendors, which in turn leads to additional, unique opportunities.

An Entire Team Committed To Your Success

From the company owners to its cadre of expert buyers, customer service representatives and those fulfilling product requests in the warehouse, the entire Zanders Sporting Goods team is committed to serving dealers and helping them grow their businesses.

“Our customers have always come first and we strive to go above and beyond their expectations every day. Both existing and new customers alike will enjoy our ever-growing inventory of outdoor products and accessories, as well as our commitment to ensure their complete satisfaction,” Stefanie concluded.

To learn more about partnering with Zanders to benefit your business, and to take advantage of its many dealer programs and exclusive product lines, visit gzanders.com.

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