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Preparing for Market with Rachel Retailer

From the desk of Rachel Retailer: From Rachels Desk

Market Season is here and it is time to visit our friends in Atlanta! I don’t know about you, but I cannot leave without making my checklist. Here is what mine looks like:

1. Create my top vendor list:

How? Run a sales report for the last 6 months and one for the last 12 months. List my top 15 vendors and look up their showroom numbers at the Mart. Sort the list by Building and Floor.

2. Create my schedule:

How? First I used my list of vendors, sorted by floor, and decided how much time I will need to spend in the different buildings. Then I decide which days I will be working in each area.

3. Travel!

Now that my schedule is set, it is time to book my travel! I start by checking prices at https://www.americasmart.com/travel.

4. Book my appointments:

Now that I know which days I will be in certain areas of the Mart, I can call to schedule appointments. First I call my top 5 vendors. Then I call my favorite two reps (if not in the top 5 vendors). I then look through the rest of my vendor list and decide if I need an appointment with the rest. I find that 2 appointments a day is great; I can always fit in another two or three if needed.

5. Don’t forget meals!

Check my schedule to make sure I am near showrooms with good food. The Link Showrooms have free lunches every day. They also have breakfast and dinner with appointments. It’s worth a repeat trip for me!

6. Did I send my sales and inventory reports to my appointments?

As soon as I make an appointment I send sales and inventory information to the sales person (if I trust them). I tell them to have a suggested order ready for me when I show up and I give them a budget that I expect to spend. Different sales people handle this differently but it will always save me time, and it keeps the appointment focused and on track.

7. Download the Americasmart App! This is the best way to find my way around.

8. Packing!

  • Wear Comfy Shoes! I can walk between 5 and 10 miles a day during market, and having shoes that can help stand up to that abuse is important.
  • A Big Bag! I tell myself every year that I am not going to collect paper and catalogs, but it always seems to happen.
  • This year, I am going to try and take pictures of displays and products that I like with the room/booth number as the next picture. I hope this helps me lower my paper collection as well as help me plan for the next day.
  • A Battery Pack. I bring at least one in case I need an extra charge for my phone.
  • My Notebook (obviously!)
  • Business cards. I never seem to bring enough cards so I am bringing 100 this time.

From the Desk of Rachel Retailer: Preparing for Market

The best thing to do to prepare for Market is to start planning now! There is an excellent formula for buying success in the previously published blog, Utilizing Your Rep. Take a look at that, and follow along with these additional strategies:

 

  •      As stated in “Utilizing Your Rep,” you will want to make appointments with trusted salespeople. The mark of an excellent sales rep is someone who is prepared for your appointment, and not simply shooting from the hip. They anticipate your questions, and the time frame you will need.

 

  •      In terms of timing, making two appointments a day, and staging them three hours apart, makes for a successful market plan. Most appointments will last between an hour to an hour and a half. Three hours between appointments gives you plenty of time to run late within an appointment, and then to find your way to the new appointment. This way, if you see something you like along the way to your next meeting, you have the time built in to allow yourself to stop and purchase what you see. Two appointments per day still gives you time at the end of the day to place any last minute additions to your schedule.

 

  •      It is easy to get distracted at Market, but you must prioritize your appointments! Meet with the most important sales people for your store. These important people should include reps for your two or three largest vendors, as well as what we can refer to as “stocking” agencies, which are agencies that carry multiple lines for your store.

 

  •      Another excellent trick is to schedule your appointments around meals! The Mart can be a difficult place when it comes to grabbing a quick meal. The limited eateries within the building often have long lines during meal times, and can be a pricey option. You can schedule a breakfast and a lunch appointment, or even anticipate your meals by calling ahead to find out what your vendors are serving.

 

  • Invest your time wisely! You can easily save yourself nearly an entire day at the show if you do some work ahead of time to write restocking orders and come prepared. A sales rep could easily HFC (Hold for Confirmation) the order for you prior to Market, and meeting time can be used to simply review and confirm. Doing this restocking before you hit your deep discount sale season is best.

 

  • At the show, it’s important to look to your trusted vendors for items you need to fill holes in your store. Simultaneously, you can have your reps pull up the orders youHFC’d and confirm them. By reviewing these orders, you also have a chance to cancel off some of the reorders to replace them with new styles. Make sure you see to it that you take advantage of any show specials.

Paper Is Popping!

Haute Papier

Stationery is coming at you from a handmade, fresh, young maker! These companies are springing up all over the place and the Link Leadership team noticed gorgeous new stationery lines at every turn while wandering the Temps at Market. Paper is popping!

Example of bullet journaling

These new paper companies tend to have a smaller offering that speaks directly to a specific market. Some cards are featuring trendy sayings and hashtags that certainly appeal to a younger demographic. Journals are also a huge staple of the gift market. After a long day typing on the computer or working on an iPad or phone, many people are reaching for pen and paper to do personal work. Take the bullet journaling trend; without the proper utensils, this trend would not have taken off the way it has!

Brownlow Journals

Lifestyle brands like Vera Bradley, Slant, and our line Brownlow have successfully integrated stationary into their product lines. Right along with Home Accents and Kitchen wares, Brownlow features paper and pens prominently as inspirational items. Thomas Nelson carries many Bible Journals and inspirational journals that are excellent gifts for First Communions, birthdays, and more!

 

Let the bright colors of these popping paper products entice you. Add some paper products to your store for a nice punch of an awesome trend! Check out StationeryTrends.com for some unique paper lines.

Jewelry Display Ideas

Many buyers will come to the show, buy a ton of product, and return to the store with the same problem: Where do we put all this new stuff? There is a fine line that retailers walk between having too much inventory and not enough product. Thankfully, there are easy solutions to the space issue, even for the smallest boutiques.

 

Going Vertical

Merchandise jewelry on a wall above other items in your store. For example, if you have a wall taken up by a cabinet that rises to about waist-level, the wall space above can be used as an area to hang necklaces, earrings, and bracelet bars can be set on top of the cabinet. Multiple collections can be shown at once with this approach, and valuable floor space is not utilized.

DW52
Anju Jewelry display

Get Brand-specific Displays

Anju Jewelry is a great example of a brand that carries beautiful and inexpensive jewelry displays. They carry unique, free-standing boards for necklaces, small ring holders, bracelet bars, and spinners for an entire collection. Brands like Anju take the guesswork out of where to put a new line.

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From Kameleon Jewelry’s Instagram

Be Creative

A unique display idea our leadership team saw at Market was setting jewelry up on faux grass. Many stores have utilized the display idea of a frame as a border with burlap or cork filling the frame, and tacking the jewelry with thumb tacks or nails. A new twist on this is using faux grass as the background. Even covering a small piece of wall with faux grass and using it as a jewelry display area is very on trend. Kameleon shows in this photo that they are keeping up with the trends and merchandising with faux greenery!

One Size Does Not Fit All

size
Source: Time.com

Clothing sizes have changed dramatically throughout the years, even since the 1960’s. According to Time.com, Twiggy was a size 8 in 1958, and would be a size 00 by today’s standards! This rise is size is due to vanity sizing. Brands label garments with smaller sizes so that women feel better about their body type.

 

The good news for the average-sized woman (who is roughly a size 12-14) is that plus size fashion is on the rise, and one-size-fits-all clothing is no longer ubiquitous.

 

Our marketing team at The Link has found vendors advertising that they carry plus sized clothing at the most recent markets. Sizes 2X and 3X are now a part of many labels formerly XS-XL sized lines.

 

What does this mean for retailers? The trend forecast is telling us that one size fits all clothing is no longer an acceptable mantra. Customers expect specific sizing that addresses all sizes. Even mainstream denim lines are jumping on this train by offering curvy sizes in denim.

 

Coco and Carmen is one brand carried by Southern Link and Total Accessories that does offer a plus sized option. Many of the dresses, tops, and pant options come in a size XXL. Accent Accessories, available through Link2Sales, offers a 2X/3X size option. To stay relevant, retailers really need to consider increasing the size range within their stores.

Denim Trend

jean1

As our leadership team explored many shows in the last few months, one item of note was denim. Jeans are now crossing over from being strictly a staple of apparel lines to becoming trend pieces that can stand on their own as a featured item.

Some vendors we have highlighted are Judy Blue Denim, Sneak Peek Denim, C’est Toi, and Cello Jeans. These vendors are all featuring denim as a hot seller. Jeans are coming with bedazzling in the form of pearls and rhinestones, as well as embroidery.

Our industry is now dipping their toes in the jeans blue waters. Rather than carrying a small offering of jeggings, often a one-size-fits-all piece, we are seeing denim in specific sizes. Customers are finding jeans not just in traditional department stores, but in a variety of small boutiques.

jean2

Accessibility and affordability are two huge factors in the denim explosion. Ten years ago, the market was dominated by jeans like Seven for All Mankind and True Religion that can run for around $200 per pair. Now, retailers are selling jeans for as low as $50-$60.

Waistlines have expanded to give all woman the best fit. Not only are waist lines in denim stretchy, but the size run has expanded to include plus sizes and fits for the curvy woman.

 

Customize, Regionalize, Personalize

With the advent of Social Media, and the rise of the Milliennials as a huge customer base, it has become increasingly important to retailers that products are customizable. Many boutiques offer services like alterations or monogramming to tailor clothing and accessories to each person’s fancy.

FTH

FTH Wholesale is a great example of a line that we carry that does their own customizing. FTH can create jewelry for any high school or college of a customer’s choosing.

 

Boelter Brands specializes in collegiate products. They were on top of Superbowl merchandise specially made for the champion team, and they carry a huge array of college sports merchandise for teams in the SEC, Big Ten, and beyond.

vivi

Vivi Designs does affordable acrylic ponchos that many retailers purchase and monogram in house for their customers. With a product that has an excellent price point to begin with, adding a monogram option is still within the price range of many people who want a unique piece of outerwear. Think outside the box and focus on customizable items this fall!

From the Desk of Rachel Retailer: Utilizing Your Rep

Hey everyone! It’s Rachel Retailer, here, with some tips on utilizing your sales reps.

There are six important focal areas that will guide you through using your Rep most efficiently: Order Management, Inventory Control, Merchandising, Training, Marketing, and Data. Over the next year, we will be doing an in-depth review of each one of these areas. We have already shared many Merchandising ideas, and would now like to turn your attention to Order Management.

First, take on the tasks that only you, as a store owner, can do. Order management starts with your “open to buy.” Determine how much product you need. The easiest way to do this is to think about the linear square feet that need to be filled in your store. Break the amount of space into categories of product (I.e., “I need four feet of jewelry, six feet of wall décor”). Apply a budget, balance this against your operating capital, and stick to it! If you only have $10,000 in cash to work with in June, only have $10,000 worth of product bought and shipped in June!

Be sure to leave a discretionary fund! When you see the hot new product, you may need to usurp something else in order to bring that in. Make this plan for each month of the year and edit it at the beginning of each month based on current sales and industry trends. This is called your monthly “open to buy.”

Here is where your Rep comes in. Do not keep your Open to Buy information a secret! Share your thoughts with a trusted sales Rep. They may have ideas, based on their industry knowledge, on which categories will work best for you at the moment. They may also find products that fit best into your mix. Good Reps, like ours at The Link, are not scared to share market information with you.

Regardless of whatever POS system you may have that tracks your orders, they can all be rendered useless if you do not start with a plan. I take the following steps when working with my Open to Buy:

  • Assuming that you have a 1500 square foot store or smaller, create a page for each monthly plan (that we discussed earlier).
  • Create a PO# for each order.
  • Decide how each PO accomplishes the goals laid out in your monthly plan. What categories are covered? How many linear feet? Is it cost effective?
  • Track the PO information on the monthly page. Add the following columns: Received On, Dollars Received, Paid On.
  • As you place and receive orders for each month, track each of the columns.
  • When you reach your budget in the dollars or reach the limit in your categories, you are finished buying for the month and your “Open to Buy” is now depleted.

In Store Events

In Store Events are what set the independent retailer apart from the big box stores! Retail can be much more of an experience, rather than just a quick errand run. Events can actually have an impact far beyond the scheduled evening or two day time frame.

A good example is a store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire called Attrezzi’s Fine Kitchen.Attrezzi's outside This store has a wine tasting every Friday night. Evening strollers can stop by for a glass or two and wander the store before heading to a restaurant down the street for dinner. The romantic effect of walking through the store on a pleasant evening causes people to stop by again during the week. This is a classic example of the halo effect an event can have on customers – it brings them back to the store again and again, hoping to create a similar positive experience.

An event also has positive word-of-mouth effects. To continue to use Attrezzi’s as an example, every time a new customer comes into the store, store employees can easily mention the wine tasting as an incentive for the customer to return.Attrezzi's inside

There is a huge amount of Social Media fuel with events. Not only is this an opportunity to create Facebook events and invite people through Instagram, but it offers up excuses for great photos that can be blasted through social media channels for months to come! It is instant marketing for the next event; when Instagram followers see customers drinking wine and buying items at the store, they see an experience they wish to be a part of. Stores often offer up a small discount to people who tag them on social media.

Have an event, and encourage attendees to take photos and tag their friends and the store in their social media posts! Offer up a photo booth, or a discount, and be sure to supply an incentive like food, wine, or another experience that customers are sure to remember.

Personal Care and Mother’s Day

A hot topic in today’s busy, digital age is self-care. And who needs a little love more than multi-tasking mamas? Personal care trends are reflecting the idea of self-care with products designed to slow down time and allow you to breathe. Face masks, bath bombs, and candles with sumptuous scents are all products that women can use to add a mini oasis of self-care to their days!

 

Bath and Body has reclaimed a major spot in our industry. These products have become significant again in a different form; customers want a unique product and are looking at boutique lines that offer domestically made products.

Pedi Delight - FF

 

Farmhouse Fresh is a great example of a brand that uses their own, U.S. farmgrown ingredients! They offer spa treatments that moms can easily do at home, when they can grab a spare moment. The Pedi Delight is a new product, featuring Oprah’s O-list favorite Honey Heel Glaze, that offers a little piece of heaven for those overworked feet!

Calm and Quiet - Yankee

 

 

One of Yankee Candle’s newest fragrances encourages the idea of taking time out. A Calm and Quiet place has the scent of gentle jasmine, patchouli, and amber musk. The natural elements within the fragrance also hit on another distinguishing characteristic of the newer bath and body trends: authentic scents, like those you would smell in the woods.

 

Airome

 

Candle Warmers’ Airome collection offers up 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. Although they have yet to become a mainstream trend, essential oils are becoming a big part of new bath and body products. This connects with the aromatherapy trend. What mom doesn’t want her house to have a scent that also boosts her mood?