[published in the July 2013 CCCC Kidsbiz newsletter]

Best Bets for Better Buys
As consumers, we’ve all done it: Aimlessly wandered into a store only to come up empty handed or worse, ending up with a bag full of regrets. Either way, spontaneous shopping trips are a gamble with little chance for that lucky great get. And if that’s true at retail, it’s even more so at wholesale where the stakes are much higher. Winging it during a buying trip can be far more costly with larger repercussions for your entire selling season.

So with that in mind and the Spring ’14 shows upon us, I gathered buying advice from reps across the country to help you up the odds for a winning market trip.

Stay informed.
Specifically for the trend-driven stores, you need to know what’s going on, even beyond children’s wear. Read In Style magazine and Women’s Wear Daily to see what’s trending in women’s so you know what’s next for kids. And if something is trending, you might need to venture out of your comfort zone and add it to your store. —Marilyn Klein, The Klein Group, Dallas and Atlanta

Invest the time.
I understand why buyers are under time and monetary pressure when in town for the show, but New York is the only region that has a beautiful show with everything you might need. Don’t rush the trade show. See what’s out there. Take the first half day and walk the show and look to the left and right. Talk to the newbies and support them the way you wanted to be supported as a new store in your neighborhood. This is especially important if business is down or if you have lines that aren’t performing as well as they once did. —Allison Moroze, Ali’s Market, NYC

Change with the times.
Remember that your customer is always changing. When I had my stores, the rule of thumb was your customer base turns over in about seven years. Neighborhoods change. The shopper you had a few years ago may not be the shopper you have today. Adjust your buys to suit your current shoppers. —Marilyn Klein

Be focused.
Seasoned stores do their homework. Doing so reduces the temptation of buying things that won’t work for them or haven’t worked for them in the past. These stores determine which lines are performing, and they know which lines aren’t performing and they’re planning to replace. They work the lines they can’t find anywhere other than the show, and then they walk the aisles looking for new collections and accessories to freshen up the store. —Sandie Ellsworth, Bill & Sandie Ellsworth, Boston

Remember different can be good.
Remember to think outside the box. Here are two examples of how it might help business:

I had a store reluctantly bring in a product recently—one piece. And it turned into four immediate repeat orders because her customers loved it. This is a product that she had always said would not work in her store.

One store writes a brand of mine and always buys the opposite of what everyone else picks, and she’s one of the best sellers for that brand. Why buy what everyone else is buying?—Allison Moroze

Commit to your lines.
If you’re going to pick up a new line, don’t overload on it but don’t cherry pick either. Make a commitment with the line so that it will have presence in your store. If you’re not willing to do that, wait a season before you pick it up. Buy enough so that at the end of the season, you can access how it did for you. No matter how many years you’ve been in business, buyers will make mistakes. It’s the nature of the business. But a good buy gives you confidence, and you’ll feel good about putting your dollars there the next time. —Ken Gorelik, Paula & Ken Gorelik, Chicago

Do some digging.
When picking up a new line, make sure your investment is reasonable. The worse thing is to put several thousand dollars into a line that’s new or new to you and the product doesn’t ship. Have a conversation with the manufacturer and the rep and try to get some information on the company’s history. Don’t avoid new companies. Everyone was new at some point. But try to get some assurances that the product will be delivered. And once it arrives in the store, make a presentation and put it in a place where it has appeal so your loyal customers will be drawn to it. —Sandie Ellsworth

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