As a first time retail buyer, walking into retail buying market can be extremely daunting. With hundreds of vendors, thousands of products and a finite timeline, just showing up to pick out your merchandise is not an option. It's very easy to become overwhelmed, distracted and impulsive! It's essential to prepare just like the pros; and this begins weeks ahead of time.
How to Prepare
Before over-spending on accommodations, start by viewing hotel options through your market site. This is the best way to get the lowest rates at the best hotels—not to mention they are likely in the immediate vicinity of your market destination. Once your travel plans are booked, you can begin scheduling appointments with the vendors and sales reps you are interested in visiting. Markets are also a terrific way to network with others in your industry so find out ahead of time where events and seminars will be held for you to meet retailers like yourself and build relationships. You can also consider meeting service providers at your show. (Springboard Retail attends several retail buying shows each year to talk to customers and demo our pos and purchasing and receiving software.)
And, for future reference, here's a great resource for all the retail buying shows out there.
What to Bring to the Show
Vendors are not at market to present their merchandise to just anybody; they are there to share and sell to retailers only and you as the buyer will need proof you are just that: a professional retailer. For this reason, remember to bring;
- Reference Sheet
- Bank Reference Letter or Credit Card
- Business Cards (bring A LOT)
- Resale License or Permit
- Your event badge. Keep this with you at all times.
- A tote bag to carry all the collateral you collect
- Comfy shoes, you'll be on your feet all day!
Arriving to Market
Plan to arrive at the show one day before your first full buying day. This is a great time to register for the event, collect maps of the venue, and gather brochures from vendors and showrooms. Pick up information packets on products you are truly interested in and think about your strategy for your buying days.
In simpler terms, “How much inventory can I buy without getting in over my head?” This is the merchandise you have budgeted for purchase at your store during a given time period and also includes items that have not yet been ordered. OTB can be calculated by the following formula:
+ Planned Markdowns
+ Planned End of Month Inventory
- Planned Beginning of Month Inventory
= Open-To-Buy (retail)
Consider this your checking account. Even though you have not received the merchandise for orders placed, continue to keep an eye on your balance. This is an important concept to consider, here is a great resource for more in-depth info: Open-to-Buy Planning for Retailers
Writing Your Orders
Once you have met with sales reps and wrapped up your appointments, it’s time to put your orders in writing. It is helpful to record notes on your orders including the salesperson and a brief description of the merchandise purchased. This is key to staying organized during a busy and hectic time. Even better, take photos! Just ask for permission first. Each order will include the following information:
Beginning, delivery and completion dates
Quantities and colors
Transportation and shipping
Cost per style
You'll want the first copy to go to the manufacturer; the second will be needed for receiving merchandise and accounting purposes; the third copy will be kept as a reference to your outstanding orders, follow-ups with vendors and reps. One thing to note; purchasing and receiving order management features often are part of pos software solutions, especially those that are geared towards growing retailers. Springboard Retail allows you to create purchase orders and receive them seamlessly into the pos software. In addition, there are platforms like Joor and NuOrder that also integrate with pos systems like Springboard.
Shipping and Delivery
Shipping dates will be recorded on your orders. This date identifies when the merchandise is leaving the warehouse, not when it is arriving in your store. Confirm the exact ship date and approximate delivery times. Note that time and cost are important factors when considering transportation and storage. Your FOB (freight on board) indicates who is paying for transportation charges and should be in writing on your order.
Lastly, keep in mind, vendors will be evaluating and assessing your store based on how well their merchandise performs and on your business practices. Avoid cancellations, returns, or customer service problems unless absolutely necessary, especially when you are starting out, as this may result in a negative business status.
Want to learn more on the fundamentals of retail buying? Here's a great retail buying info video by our partners at Shopify.
Let our retail consultants show you around Springboard Retail POS and share how Springboard's purchasing and receiving features, can help you sell more, profitably!