Another year starts and before you realise it it’s time to be thinking about trade fairs and what to buy for next season. January is a very busy period for the manufacturers as the gear up for the for the coming season putting the final touches to the collection, holding sales meeting and issuing targets, which are never achievable but the good old sales manager likes to dish out figures which in fairness they need to do, so they can budget and also give the factory some idea of pairage.

Then we come to the reps. They have been off for at least a month. They will be getting their diaries out and calling to see how the Season has gone but mainly to try and pin the retailer down for an appointment. Having been there myself it is not easy to gauge when the right time to call is as you always seem to pick that one time when the shop is busy. What used to make me mad was when the assistant would say “I’ll check if he’s in” and then you would hear them say “No, tell them I’m out”
Now let’s look at the retailer. You’ve worked all over Christmas trying to get every penny you can while everyone else is partying and enjoying themselves, the weather is terrible now and trade has died. You are looking at the shelves and counting how many long boots are left and the phone goes and its Mr Happy Agent looking for an appointment to get you to spend even more money. No wonder you say I’m not in.

In all seriousness the next month is so important to retailers. I start by looking at sales figures for the previous season. We never had fancy computer systems – we used to have a list of how many we ordered and then count how many of each style were left, deduct one from the other and you can see how many you have sold. Modern computers will do all this for you. Next I would have a meeting with the staff and see what they feel has done well or that they had missed.

It a good idea to stick a big piece of white cardboard on the staff room wall and ask the staff while they are having a tea break to stick images of shoes they think you should buy or write any comments they like ie:- Party shoes, Waterproof shoes , shoes with gold trims whatever they think will sell. This is an anonymous way to find out what your staff think about the stock.

Next I do my own research into fashions and trends and decide what my budget is for the forthcoming season. Now, I need to decide which are my main suppliers and how much I want to spend with them then who are my secondary suppliers and lastly how
much is left for new business. I think it is imperative to introduce at least 2 or 3 new brands every season and therefore drop 2 or 3 brands each season. You don’t need to go mad with new brands, just a sensible order which gives the brand enough shelf space not to be missed but also isn’t over the top if it doesn’t work.

Now, you have all the information you need to visit the trade fairs and build your collection. I find it best to spend the first part of your visit just looking firstly at the brands you already stock. If the rep tries to get involved I just very politely say we want to just get an overview today and will come back later for a full presentation.

Once I have seen all the main brands I very roughly think how many styles I would buy from each of them and then it will give me some
ideas of what is left for new business. Now, I spend time looking at new brands, again just a quick overview. Day 2 of the show is spent
putting more detail into each brand maybe doing sample orders or at least calculating how much i am planning to spend and checking I have all areas covered.

Lastly, I either place my order at the show or arrange a time to see each agent or rep that I am interested in buying from.
By the time I leave the show my next collection is well on the way to being created. Next month I will talk about the next process placing orders and balancing the collection.

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