Flexing Your Buying Muscles

Having the skills to be a great investor in your business inventory is what is needed to create “Buying Power.” This knowledge of buying is what keeps retail business leaders in front of the competition.

Having the skills to be a great investor in your business inventory is what is needed to create “Buying Power.” This knowledge of buying is what keeps the leaders within this industry in front of the competition. One of the main places to exercise your buying power is at market. Progressive retailers carefully detail market trips ahead of time, planning to make every moment count while on the buying floor. They know that time is money and have prepared ahead of time so they can maximize every minute while there.

By planning to be more organized at market, the more you will accomplish. These skills can make or break your business.

The power of the purchase
The retail giants have the power to purchase large amounts of inventory at discounted prices. They also receive special benefits such as buy-back programs, markdown allowances and advertising incentives. It may seem hard to compete with these giants and their buying power, but smaller retailers can learn to create their own power.

The smaller retailer can benefit from purchasing unique lines that are not featured at the larger stores. These retailers can also plan their purchases closer to their season.

Other benefits include purchasing from small cottage-industry resources and buying exclusively for their customer base. The smaller retailer knows its customer base better and offers its customers personalized service with its buying power.

By learning these skills you will be building your buying power even more.

Get organized before market
Put together a complete vendor list by floor and category for each market and tradeshow you attend. List the line name, salesperson’s name, showroom or booth number, and category of inventory. Compile the list on your computer and run a copy before each market. You can then highlight the lines you wish to see at the market or tradeshow. Make sure to update this list upon your return. Since lines move around all the time, it’s important to keep a good track record of who is carrying what line. Keep a file for new lines that you hear about and add them to your list before each buying trip. Good resources for new lines include customer referrals, staff referrals, and lines you may have spotted in catalogs or while traveling.

Research the line before going on your buying trip by contacting the salesperson and inquiring about the price points. Also find out what other stores in your area carry the line. This will save you the extra time during market.

Your list should also include: the balances of your open-to-buy for each month you will be buying for; and a list of appointments and your itinerary.

Run your sales reports and spend some strong, focused time comparing them with past month’s reports and current business trends. Review and learn from past mistakes. Plan an in-store meeting with your sales staff before each market to discuss what is selling and what is not. Also accept their input on categories to build and improve on. Discuss what your customers have been asking for.

Networking with other retailers at market can also be one of your greatest resources.

Time well spent at market
Don’t overload your schedule with too many appointments. Make appointments at only the showrooms that are always extra busy at markets or tradeshows. Leave time to check out new vendors and to allow extra time for larger collections.

Learn to make detailed notes and carry your paper. Leave orders at market only when the deliveries are within 30 days, or when you are reordering fast-selling inventory. You’ll need the time to review your notes, compare lines and make sure you are staying within your open-to-buy budget.

Keep focused on your customer base. Don’t sway from the image you want to project within your store. By buying closer to your delivery dates, you will be able to control changes within your business and stay on top of the latest trends.

Listen to your sales associates and build an excellent rapport with them. They are an important part of your business. These associates can help with special orders, special showings and can be an excellent networking source.

Stay productive after your buying trip
While you still have your market mindset, make working on your orders your main priority after returning. If you wait too long to send your orders, it will affect your buying power.

Break down the delivery dates into groups and work with one month at a time. Compare lines, price points, quality and previous sales records when placing orders.

Write as many orders as you can on your own store order forms with a purchase order that coincides with your in-store records. On these forms you can list your delivery policies, not the manufacturers’. Fax, mail or e-mail your orders only after reviewing and posting them to your open-to-buy program.

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