Tips from a Professional Buyer....

Released On 18th Feb 2017

Earlier this week I was visiting a trade show - PURE in London, we used to exhibit our collections there, but pulled out several years ago.

However, I do still go, for the following reasons 1) to check that that decision is still correct – 2) to monitor any trends or directions that might be coming thru and 3) most important -  to catch up with peers, friends and customers.

It was whilst I was having a coffee with one of the latter, that I learnt some tips about how this particular professional buyer works.  Even though she was buying for her (3) shops and customers, I did think that here were some worthwhile tips that could stop all of us from buying the wrong thing.

Phoebe carries a note book and in the back is jotted a quick check list that she refers to when considering a new purchase.
All of us can remember when you have been carried away on the spur of the moment, that fuchsia pink sequinned jumpsuit in a size 22 seemed like a good idea – but sadly in your own mirror surrounded by real life – it wasn’t perhaps your best investment. 

As high street consumers, when sanity returns, we have the luxury of marching the unused item back to the store and requesting a refund or at very least a credit note.

But for retail buyers considering a new line, that isn’t an option – most businesses nowadays must pay for new lines on a pro-forma basis, essentially paying up front, before delivery.  

When they are are buying from a UK manufacturer like Owen Barry that isn’t too risky, but for product coming from further afield – sometimes payment is expected before the product is even made ! – This is very often the case when the goods are coming from the far east, the seller will insist on 30% deposit up front  (to stop you changing your mind) followed by the balance prior to delivery – so as you can see this is a real gamble, the buyers have to be sure about the reliability and honesty of the seller, in terms of quality, service, delivery both on time and to order, so buying the wrong thing from the wrong resource can be a very expensive mistake.

I asked Phoebe about her check list’s – they varied slightly for Accessories, Shoes and Ready to Wear.
Of course, for me the bag notes were the most interesting – perhaps you should consider these points and her remarks, when buying your next handbag??

  • Quality – “Is the bag well made, before I invest in a bag (range), it's important to make sure it's actually worth what you're spending on it, I start with the stitching - Is it crooked or fraying? -Then look at the hardware, does it feel flimsy? Will it fall apart within a few uses?  You must pay close attention ​to​ the skin or material​​ quality. And don’t forget the inside - the lining, the pockets – everybody notices the outside of your bag – but you have to live with the inside”.
  • Make sure it is easy to use - ""Stick with easy to open bags,"" says Phoebe ""If you're using it daily the last thing you what to do is deal with tricky closures when the phone rings - Many of my customers want zips – so an outside pocket is a bonus, too much un-necessary gimmicky decoration just weighs the handbag down with no real purpose – but Owen Barry know that “- thank you madam – I’ll take that.
  • Carry Test – “There is nothing more annoying than when a bag constantly slips off your shoulders, is there enough room for it to slip easily over a chunky overcoat or plump upper arms – plus feel the handle/strap is it soft, strong enough without sharp edges?  When you are wearing skimpy summer tops, will it cut in or rub?  – many people forget that one.  A carry test is essential before I invest in a new range, and a mirror, I can’t understand how customers can buy handbags without using a mirror!” 
  • Shape and Size - “Big is not always better! – in my shops cover all bag shapes and sizes for a wide range of customers and uses – but as a rule of thumb, with a new supplier I ask them to suggest their bestselling bag interestingly most of the time it will be the middle size with the multipurpose.  Detachable straps for daytime/evening use is ideal for the busy woman “ says Phoebe – “BUT” with a raised eyebrow “if I have a gap for cross bodies I cannot be influenced into totes – I know what my customers want” (I love a strong buyer!)
  • Check out your resource – “I always do research online and see who else is stocking the line ideally look for testimonials and check out their social media, nowadays I can do that whilst having a coffee, but even if I have already placed the order, I always reassure myself that I have made the right decision.  In the past that info, has actually forced me to cancel orders, but my money is very hard earned and I don’t waste it on lines that don’t stand up to scrutiny – plus my customers trust me to provide good on trend styles, quality and value for money – that’s what keeps them coming back “.

I think there are some great tip’s there from, believe me, a very knowledgeable buyer, and a very good customer – I find it interesting that despite 20+ years in the fashion industry ( Sorry Fee !!)  that if in doubt she still reverts to her checklist to ensure she is making the right decision – trusting your gut is good – but a few key rules help to keep us on track.

Watch this space for next week’s Spring Cleaning Clearance news......

Bags shown Iggy in Brûlée Cowhide & Riggster in Ocean Suede
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