I have been told, by so many of my friends, that my job as a buyer is glamorous. “You get to go to the best parties, you have all the insider secrets and, best of all, you get paid to shopping!” However, many of these statements are simply untrue. Having worked with everything from promotional products, children’s toys and luxury goods, most of my working life has revolved around range planning and buying — there is more to it than spending an entire day adrift in the shops.
After years as a retail buyer, I am happy to share some secrets to help you plan your perfect pitch to retailers, debunk common misconceptions and give you some tips to make your venture sound as exciting to buyers as it does to you!
Common Misconceptions of Buyers
“All you do is shop for a living” — Show buyers that your products will sell
Life as a buyer means you spend more time chained to a desk then you’d have ever thought possible. Between checking budgets, analysing what is selling (and what isn’t), and developing relationships with your manufacturers and suppliers, buyers spend at least half of their working day dealing with emails and phone calls. Be prepared and organised. Buyers have to be constantly aware of what is selling. Buyers will ask you the following questions, “what are your best sellers”, “how are your products made?”, “where else is your product stocked?” The answers to those questions could land you a big order
“It’s just products” — Curate what you present
What you are selling is more than just a product; apply a good story to your collection so they buy into you. Every store has a particular story they are trying to sell. Before you approach the buyer with your product make sure your product will help further their story. Do your research; understand the store and relate it back to the product you are offering them. Be sure to curate what you present to retailers and come well-rehearsed on the inspiration behind the products and how your products are different and better.
“Do just buy things that you like?” — Think beyond personal preference
For buyers, planning their products in store is about understanding who their customers are and catering to their needs. The buyer herself may be a fan of hot pink ballpoint pens, but do those pens reflect the store? Do they reflect current trends? They must think beyond their personal preference to create a cohesive range that appeals to customers. A buyer might personally really like your product line but think the timing is off or that it doesn’t fit the store’s target customers. If you get rejected, remember it’s not about personal preference — listen carefully to their feedback. Is it that your entire brand is a bad fit or do they have suggestions on how to change your products and try again?
Clarifying these misconceptions will help you get inside the mindset of the buyer and see your product line from their perspective. Next is how to present to retail buyers.
3 Tips for Presenting to a Buyer
Remember when buyers are planning their range, they must think at least six months in advance and so do you. If your products have a gift element present your products with a seasonal theme. This gives them the chance to to make selections, anticipate delivery and plan promotions. You need to be planning (and have sample product available) well in advance.
This means you want to think about trends. Instagram is a great free tool to anticipate trends in your market, if you have identified your product keywords, search for them and look for ‘early adopters’ who are a key indicator for upcoming trends. If you have a budget, trend forecasting tools like WGSN have a wealth of packages to keep you ahead of the curve.
Keep Tabs on What Sells
Review what is selling and pay close attention. If you sell through your own ecommerce website or other retailers, look at your sales at least weekly. Review your best and worst selling products and services. Analysing your sales data helps identify what is working for you and what isn’t. This helps you to select the best products to present to buyers. If buyers see a product consistently failing to reach sales targets, they discontinue that item and replace it with something new. Do the same to your products internally and only present buyers with items you know have a good chance at selling.
Tell a Story
When a buyer picks something from your business, they are buying into you. Everyone has a story and it’s something you should capitalise on. If you are unsure of it write it down. Your reasons for starting your venture will grow from there. This not only helps you to inform your product range but helps you to formulate your promotional and marketing plans.
If you are approaching a buyer, sometimes; it will almost never be as easy as sending an email.
If you have secured a meeting with buyer DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Understand the brand, understand the buyer themselves. Read anything and everything possible and about the brand the store’s ethos (and if you can) the buyer themselves.
It is a job interview after all; possibly the most personal job interview you’ll ever undertake. So treat it as such. Would you walk into an interview not knowing about the company? What they stand for? I wouldn’t think so.
Using these simple tips will help you develop a product range that is not only dynamic and relevant, but will make your job selling to retail buyers a lot easier!
You’ve already made the monumental decision to share your venture with the world. So, remember to enjoy it. There may be some pitfalls, but surrounding yourself with peers, attending networking and industry events will you learn and find camaraderie in your shared story. And That can only be a good thing!
About Lucinda Batchelor
One of my favourite things in life is stationery. I get to live my dream life by recommending stationery that inspires joy and productivity. If there is a reason to discuss the merits of a good notepad, believe me I will talk about it at great length. This is the core of The Study Room London; an opportunity to get people writing again and to find joy in productivity.
The Study Room London is a Luxury Productive Stationery Supply Store, founded by a stationery and To-Do list obsessive; Lucinda Batchelor, an organisational and productivity consultant who spends an extraordinary amount of time on Pinterest lusting at pens and using her remaining time bringing creatives together.
The Study Room does this by hosting events, groups and meetups to unwind or to develop your creative venture; helping you to find your voice and your peers.
Because it’s never as fun if you are on your own!