With so many vendors, so much landscape, what are the secrets to getting the most from market? Below are some answers from savvy retailers.
Drink lots of water. Shows are exhausting. Pace yourself. One buyer told me she downloaded an ap on her iPhone called Tap & Track and entered everything she ate in the ap. She became so aware of the idle snacking and drinking at market; she went home 2 pounds lighter. Extra Tip: Use the stairs to move between floors. “Not only do I get some exercise, I get a mental break from the crowds.”
Set appointments with core vendors and reps. Even those who traditionally work floor by floor without appointments, set appointments with key professional reps that add value to their business. A big challenge for buyers today is that many vendors carry the same or similar products. Given the speed that information travels, duplication has become commonplace. “I know I will see similar product in several places at a range of price points. If I trust the resource and the product and prices appeal to me, I make the purchase. I don’t worry anymore about seeing absolutely everything.”
Trust your instincts but be open-minded. Learning how to say “no” nicely is an important part of shopping market. On the other hand, be open to surprises. Market is a time to refresh and renew existing business, but also to expand product horizons.
Observe. AmericasMart is a wonderful place to get creative juices flowing, invent visual stories, identify color patterns and get ideas for window displays and in-store promotions. Being curious and observant is part of being a good merchant.
Things are not always what they seem. Before coming to market, analyze the business. Identify products and vendors that are on the down slope and may need reworking, as well as products that are doing well and call for expansion. Invariably there are surprises. “Sometimes what you think is working is not what the math shows. Smart business means letting the retail math rule.”
Keep good notes. Most buyers did a recap each night in their hotel room and tweaked their plan for the next day. “What happens after the show is as important as during Market. I can’t necessarily act on everything I see right then and there, but if I have good documentation I can follow up at a future date.”
Take pictures. Today, everyone has a camera. Some showrooms get protective but when making a purchase it is legitimate to request to take a picture of what was just bought. Upon request, Southeast marketing can now e-mail or print order copies with thumbnail images. Alternatively, pictures on your iPads or smart phone can do the trick too.
Ask questions. Talk to strangers. Market is a time to learn. Probe the reps. “What is driving the business? How do you recommend merchandising this product? What colors are the strongest? What top reorders items am I missing?” One retailer said, “I like to listen to other retailers who have bought a product already or ask a stranger at lunch, ‘What have you seen that is exciting?’ Speaking with strangers has led to some of the most exciting discoveries at Market.”
Shop the temps. Most retailers said they spent some time in the temps, although several said it was a bust. Everyone admitted that the most reliable and creative vendors are found in the permanent showrooms. “If you find something in the temps it’s a bonus. If not, enjoy. It’s retail therapy.”
Market is a time to connect. Shows provide a unique opportunity for retailers to influence the direction of a product line. Their feedback can help make products more appealing and thus improve sales at the store level.
“No one of us is as smart as all of us. Working together, having fun.” At SE Marketplace this is a mantra that captures the epitome of Market. It is a unique time, when all constituents are together, learning from each other.