Monday, December 3, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Retailer During the Holidays: Day Three

If I had a dime for every time someone said, "going to Market must be so much fun!", I'd be richer than Donald Trump.

Going to wholesale buyers' market is fun - it's a blast, actually, but not for the reasons you might think.

Imagine going shopping.  Then multiply that experience times 50,000.  Hold that feeling - of excitement and fun and overstimulation and fatigue.  Got it?  Now you're starting to understand how it feels about four hours in to a four day trip.  :)

So why do I call it fun?  First and foremost, because I get to see old friends at Market.  Whether I'm at Jewelry Market in Vegas or Gift Market in Atlanta or Tabletop Market in New York, I have a chance to catch up with people I've worked with for decades...34 years to be exact!  We trade pictures of our kids and grandkids, talk about the state of the industry, and check out the new trends together.

Market is by far the best place to spot trends.  Walking through aisles and aisles (we're talking acres of product) you'll quickly begin to notice patterns: colors (is green the new black?); product types ("green", modern, minimalist, vintage); themes.

So one of the tricks to Market is being able to simultaneously have a wide-angle view while searching for the close-up.  I walk the aisles looking for that perfect product - something I know my customers will fall in love with, something unique and special - while also noticing the big picture, building a story in my mind for the products we will buy.

For the holiday season, our buying begins in January for gifts and in June for jewelry.  It continues in July at Atlanta Gift Mart, and sometimes continues again in August at New York Mart.  

Before I leave I run reports on our current inventory, as well as a history of what has sold when and how quickly.  Even though the reports are handy, most of it is in my head.  I know what my customers love - that's what makes The Menagerie unique.  I have the privilege of knowing almost all of my customers personally (and there are thousands of you!).  I've been in many of your homes; I've gone to your parties and childrens' weddings.  I know how you live; therefore, I know what you look for.  And that's what I look for - those things that you would want.

Other retailers rely heavily on numbers and reports.  While those are important, I can't work that way primarily.  I rely on relationships.  That's what gives me energy and keeps me going even when I am dog tired walking those aisles. 

I think to myself: "Julie is bringing in her shopping list in October - I have to make sure I find items for all twenty-five family members, in a variety of price ranges, and all unique."  Or, I think, "Don has a fiftieth wedding anniversary two weeks before Christmas this year, and his wife, Amy, wants a statement ring.  Let's find the perfect ring, just for her."

So, ultimately, picking out holiday gift items and working the markets is one part math and two parts gut.  I understand the statistics - what has sold, what price points we need, where our inventory is thin, what our turn rates are - but I focus on the relationships - what would Mary love or how does William want to celebrate that new baby?

In the end, my hope is that the method in our madness makes for a unique, beautiful collection of gifts from which to choose.  I hope you agree! 

There is no feeling greater than having a customer say "thank you" for having the perfect gift!  A satisfied customer is the impetus for having packed my bags for the last thirty-four years to search for the next, "hot", must-have item.

See you tomorrow for more in a Day in the Life of a Retailer During the Holidays: Day Four.