10 Things You Should Know Before Attending Market

A note from Streamline: Today’s post is from Dana Kantalis. Dana is an expert retail strategist with vast experience in wholesale, online, and brick and mortar retail. Having worked for majors like Neiman Marcus, Horchow.com, and Tootsies, she now aptly guides independent retailers to growing their business by managing inventory and improving cash flow. In her work as an inventory planner, her ultimate goal is helping retailers sleep better at night by creating a work environment that is both productive and rewarding.

“I can’t wait to go to market!”

“Being a buyer must be so glamorous.”

“New York! LA! Atlanta! Dallas! I can travel the country and buy clothes!”

File those under things you often hear new store owners or those thinking about opening a store say.

Truth is that while buying at market IS fun and an aesthetic festival for those who love fashion and home goods and gifts – it is WORK! Below are some tips to foraging your first market trip or subtle reminders for those who can walk the halls with their eyes closed.

1. Know who you are.

What kind of store are you? This is so important. Do you want to sell fast fashion, high end, or in the middle? Are you a gift store? Home and accessories? You must know who you want to be BEFORE you attend market. Knowing who you are reminds us that while those baby clothes are perfect, you sell home goods and gifts.

2. Budget! Budget! Budget!

If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall (I can’t footnote anyone for this tidbit of knowledge, as my father has said it in varying ways most of my life, but go ahead a re-read it and maybe consider tattoo’ing it somewhere in your office VERY visibly). What is your breakeven point? How much do we NEED to make vs. how much do we need to buy to achieve this? Does what you are buying fit into your classification structure and work for your clients? Those bills are going to come and they have to get paid.

3. Delivery dates.

When do you want this merchandise to land in your store? Cancel dates are important. What date do you need the goods shipped? This means that they have to ship it out of their warehouse by that date or you can cancel/negotiate a discount. Make sure you have confirmed these dates before you sign. Depending on the merchandise, some vendors will have merchandise that will be ready to ship immediately – you may not need it immediately. You are in control; you MUST know when your merchandise is coming.

4. Minimums.

A minimum is the either dollar amount or quantity that you have to buy into on an opening order. There may also be minimums on re-orders, too. Make sure to ask and if so, what are the details? Pay close attention the quantities certain vendors require you to buy into. It’s better to buy smaller while telling a nice story about the product, watch it sell out quickly & have to reorder, than it is to buy in abundance, meet a crazy large requirement minimum order which will throw your open to buy off and get stuck with merchandise you are going to have to markdown to get out the door.  Be cautious, not afraid.

5. Payment on orders.

Speaking of opening orders and minimums, a lot of vendors require credit card payment on opening orders. Wait to give them a credit card number until right before they are shipping the merchandise, if possible. Ask if you can go to Net 30 on re-orders. COD is often an additional charge so that isn’t the greatest option, even is ‘cash is king’.

6. Ask questions.

Ask them who they sell in your zip code or the stores that are specific “competition” and are in close vicinity to your store – go ahead and ask them if they sell them by the store’s name. It is protection for you & their current client. No shame in the game, ASK QUESTIONS!

7. What are the show specials?

Show special is just what it says: a price incentive offered by vendors to induce buyers to place orders at a trade show. Always ask. Then, ask if you can still get the show special when you submit your order within the week. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR ORDER! You can think through the order, how much you are able to spend, and the quantities that you need. You are in control.

8. Shipping.

If you have your own UPS or FedEx number and would rather use it, ask if that’s an option {it almost always is}. Is FREE shipping a show special? Shipping costs can get out of hand and affect your bottom line, so ask the question.

9. Price point and margins.

What is your retail price point? Are you buying goods that you can get a decent initial mark up? Note that a decent initial markup isn’t 50% {aka keystone}. Look for goods that allow you to get the most bang for YOUR buck. Is there a vendor suggested price? Know what you want your initial mark up to be as the chances that you sell out of all the merchandise at the initial price is low – it’s not realistic as much as it is the hope.

10. Do your research.

Market is fun. Market is also exhausting – walking the show, seeing the vendors you know you want to see, stumbling upon new vendors that are going to be perfect for your store, trying to stay within budget. There are a lot of factors that fall on you, the buyer – do the research leading up to market, figure out where the vendors you want to see are located. Figure out who you don’t know much about and want to find and see and feel and learn more about their product. An informed buyer is a successful buyer.

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