Buying the Best

Hello Newsletter Reader, Happy April! This month we want to challenge you to become a better buyer for your store (or restaurant, gym, bank or any other retail oriented location). Following along with our retail selling philosophy of Inform and Deliver, it is your responsibility to not only find the best product for your customer but then to be able to explain to them why that option is better than anything else out there. Now, what we DON’T mean is that the best products are those that EVERY other store is carrying. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Just because every other store out there has the hot and trendy item, that is good reason for you to NOT carry it.

Buying the Best

It may be tempting to follow the lead of other stores and go out and buy Pandora Bracelets, Burt’s Bees, Lake Champlain Chocolate, Yankee Candles, Vera Brandley bags or Melissa & Doug toys. You may get some customers in the door because you are promoting that you have these items. But if your customer can buy them anywhere else, you then are forced to compete on price, service, availability of styles and skus, etc. And let’s be honest, there is nothing unique about a product that can be bought at CVS, Target, discount outlets or one of a zillion flash sale websites.

Give your customers credit, most also know that with these types of items, if they are patient or look in the right places, can be bought at a massive discount. They can buy these products anywhere, anytime or online at hundreds of sites so they are not driven by these products to come back to your store or website. Do you want to be saddled with tons of inventory when people realize there is no need to pay full price?

The big name brands create loyalty to the brand and not to the store. A store that carries new and little known brands and always brings in new products is building loyalty to the store. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon when all your competitors are buying something, really try to become the one to find those hot trends and unique items — before everyone else does. Become the store that everyone else is emulating and trying to get the products you have. And then once they do, move on.

If you have unique and fresh designers, new brands or products and the distribution is very limited then customer will be more likely to come back to your store for more. By always adding these new and interesting items in your store, you are generating pleasant surprises with each visit as opposed to the same brands in the same places (can you say same old same old?)

How do you do this?

  1. Become the expert in your category. You already know so much about your customer. Direct them to what they will like instead of being led.
  2. You need to be credible in terms of how you communicate your knowledge of the industry and products. Do this through your website, newsletter, in store signage, and employees who are informed and empowered to properly help customers.
  3. Shop the tradeshows. Search for the innovative and unique items that you haven’t seen elsewhere and don’t make decisions on the spot. Go home and look at everything out of the chaos and so you can see how each buy would integrate with the rest of your merchandise.
  4. Shop your competition online and offline.
  5. Take some risks. Some items you buy will be winners. Some won’t be. But if you just follow everyone else, you will never break out of the cycle.
  6. Trust your instincts. You know your customer. Show them you understand them by having the right and best products.

A great buyer is always looking for (and finding) the next Burt’s Bees. Since he/she is confident in their knowledge of the market and their ability to present an interesting and sellable assortment he /she will drop a line (even if it is selling well) when it becomes oversold and is found everywhere. Even though selling product is what retail is all about, smart stores know that they can not always be focused on maximizing sales today if it means diluting of the store image and will cause the store to lose customers tomorrow. When stores have an image, a brand, a look and a personality, then the merchandise, much like the store design and the store staff, is an important part of the marketing of a store.

So just remember, there is not much marketing value for a store calling itself a specialty shop if they are selling items that are no longer special. Be special!

If you feel like you may need a little tune up on buying and merchandising strategies, check out our services! You can also download our merchandising eGuide for more helpful buying tips.