There’s no reward without risk. Retailers can tell you all about risk, and that when it comes to buying, sometimes you have a take a chance and follow your instinct. From a new line of dog toys to a different brand of jeans, retailers have to take risks to find out what works for their customers, and what falls flat. But how much of the buying process should be based on instinct, and how much should be based on metrics?
Former Harvey Nichol’s buyer and CEO of Modalyst, Jill Sherman, weighs in on what it takes to be a great buyer.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most important things retailers should keep in mind when it comes to buying?
A: The two most important things you can do as an independent retailer are: 1) know your customer, and 2) know how to differentiate yourself. Your product is what sets you apart — find the core products that make up your basics, then add highlight pieces that make you shine.
Q: Is there something out-of-the-box that retailers can do to get great results?
A: For many small retailers, product sourcing is the most time and energy-consuming part of the job. Consider joining up with other retailers to do group buys — not only will you get better prices, you’ll also get access to hot new items.
Q: How often should retailers make buys?
A: It depends on the retailer and the industry. There are the main buying seasons in fashion, but the in-season buy is becoming more and more important to the independent retailer. Buying in smaller amounts throughout the season allows you to buy closer to the trend. Analyze trends in your store at least once a month, ideally once a week, and make your buys accordingly.
Q: What should a retailer think about when choosing a vendor?
A: When trying out a new brand, look for consistency in a collection. It’s hard to capture your customer’s attention with the same brand if there’s a lot of diversity between seasons. Check out their past seasons lookbooks to see if the collections have consistency, or if each collection is completely different from one another.
A great buyer has their ear to the ground when it comes to new trends, as well as a deep understanding of who their customer is and what they’ll buy. Along with good instincts, a retailer can guide their decisions using historical data and a systematic approach. Our latest guide deconstructs the buying process and separates it into three steps, with easy-to-follow directions on how to get the most out of your next buy. Click here for a free copy of The Independent Retailer’s Guide to Buying Inventory.
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