On Discontinued Products

Discontinued Product Information (article copy as PDF, 162 KB)

Most of you recognize that Spectrum discontinues production of products from time to time, for one reason or another. I thought it would be worthwhile to explain some of those reasons, especially in light of the apparent "rash" of recently discontinued amber glasses.

People tend to assume that a product is automatically discontinued when its sales fall off. Not true—we're not quite that brutal. After years of poor sales, we evaluate a product carefully. The questions we ask are these:

  1. Do we gain anything by dropping this product? What we are seeking to gain is not so much cost savings, but new opportunity. If the demise of a tired product provides production time to make something new and exciting, that's one vote for extinction.
  2. Are there similar alternatives that are readily available? We know that no matter how poor a product's sales appear to us somebody out there needs it. If there are similar products available, it eases the pain.
  3. How important is the replacement/restoration market for this particular glass? It is extremely rare that a Spectrum product goes from highly popular, or even moderately popular, to unpopular enough for us to consider dropping. The more likely chain of events is that a product in danger of extinction (due to poor sales) was never very popular in the first place. The answer to question #2 carries weight here, too.

The truth is, poor sales is not the most common culprit when a product bites the dust. It's more likely that we have encountered some monumental production problem that leads us to announce a "discontinued." Even if we think the problems are eventually solvable, we believe the market (that's you) is better served if we call the product "discontinued" until, hopefully, we can overcome the obstacles and bring it back. The alternative is extremely long "out of stock" periods, which we feel are unfair and misleading.

This is not to say that every time we drop a product, it's just a matter of time before it returns. But when a truly popular product, or group of products, goes by the wayside, you can be sure we're working on a problem. Mauve (240-91W) was a case in point. We announced it as "discontinued" in November 1990, fully expecting a year of experiments to work out the "purple puzzle" it had plagued us with. That time, a relatively quick solution came as a welcome surprise. It was back in production within 4 months time.

Ambers are another example. In 1989 we made a major change in the configuration of one of our production lines, replacing a small continuous furnace with a huge day-tank (see THE SCORE, January, 1990). There were excellent reasons for this change, and we've seen many benefits as a result. One thing we didn't see, though, was the problem it would give us with amber glass. Rather than get into the chemistry and mechanics of it, let's just say that after three disastrous attempts at amber production since then, we've reduced our standard amber product line by six items.

Ambers are a staple in this industry, and we're sadly aware of that. Believe me, we have every intention of working out the "amber enigma," but it may take some time.

With regard to any products we discontinue, you have a say in the matter. If we announce a product "dropped," and nobody notices, we're not likely to give it's resurrection too much priority. On the other hand, the more you scream, the harder we push. In recent memory, we've discontinued and later brought back Clear Ripple, 291-61S (champagne opal) and Pale Grey Baroque due to popular (that's you) demand. And there are others that, no matter how loud your screams, we still haven't been able to figure out. But we're trying.

In many ways, we reinvented the wheel here at Spectrum, when it comes to making art glass. There aren't any instructions or how-to books to guide us, because it's never been done quite this way before. So we have to learn a lot by trial and error. Please accept our sincere apologies for those times when you're inconvenienced, frustrated, or just plain furious due to our "discontinued" products. And above all, keep talking to us. The heart of our super-sophisticated "marketing program" is open ears and open minds.


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