How to Buy at a Retail Market

SIGGRAPH Conference Exhibition Hall
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Whenever I examine a business that is losing sales, its almost always linked to inventory control. The store either has too much inventory or even worse too little inventory. They have no system of checks and balances to manage their inventory so when they go to a trade show or market to buy inventory they are starting from a disadvantage. 

Here are 4 things to hope you have a successful market (buying) experience. 

1. Bring Your Data

Too many people think they can operate from within their heads. After all, they only have 1 store, so how hard can it be? Never go to market wither data. You need to know what your current inventory levels are by category, what your current sales are by category and how your inventory turns are performing by category. The best scenario is to have an open to buy the system. This is where your inventory is managed in software for you and it gives you triggers for when to replenish and when to markdown. While not all stores can afford the type of system, you can track some basic innovatory control data even in the simplest of POS systems

2. Buy for Your Customer

This one was always hard for me and honestly, it took me a while to get the hang of it. See if this sounds like you. You sit in the vendor's booth and he tells you "These are top selling styles." So, what do you do? You order those styles. Always remember it is your customer you are buying for not the vendor. Just because it is planned to be the best one for the vendor does not mean it belongs in your store. Sometimes it does, especially if they re going to feature lots of national advertising around that sku, but be careful. 

3. Take Pictures of Everything

Probably the biggest mistake we make at merit is that our eyes are bigger than our wallets. We see so much cool, new merchandise that "we just have to have" that we end up spending more than we should. the biggest fallout of this practice is duplication. It's hard to remember from booth to booth what you have seen and ordered. IF you have pictures with you, it makes it so much easier. With my shoe stores, we used to do a style out before we placed our final order. We would put all of the styles on the floor before us (or on the table if we only had pics) and looked for ways to reduce the order. 

4. Protect Your Fill-ins

Always remember, that you have core merchandise that you must never be out of stock of or you will miss sales. Too many people use up all of their open to buy on new merchandise and have not cash left over for fill-ins. Treat the market as a way to keep your store looking fresh. Surround your core merchandise with the latest items. But hold back money to replenish those core items. 

5. Look for Closeouts

Every vendor has items they are looking to get rid of. The item or style just did not move the way they thought and now you can buy it had a deep discount. The best part of these closeout items is that you can mark them at their retail (IMU) price and then put them on sale day one in your store. If you make it at $100 and you only paid $25, you can mark it down 25% and still get keystone margins.