Most of the time when we go shopping, we never really think about how our favorite items get into the store. Where did they come from? Who picked the colors and the styles? Why does this store have this item, but not this one? I worked in retail for 3 years during college and as I would put the new arrivals on the floor I always asked myself these questions.
Back then I never knew the right answers to these questions, but now I can proudly say that for most of them I have the answers. Not only is there typically more than one person making these decisions, but there are in fact teams of people.
From a designers point of view, the process includes researching new stores, contacting the owner or the buyer of the store, meeting with potential buyers, sending line sheets to the stores, and most importantly trade shows. Before this internship, I never really thought about it, I figured that everything was done over the computer and by coming across the hot new trend.
For the people who don’t know what a trade show is, like me a few months ago, a trade show is an event for artisans and brands to sell their new products directly to buyers (boutique stores as well as department stores) at wholesale prices. You don’t just get invited to attend because you are a seller, this is something you have to research on your own and get accepted into. With that being said, it is more work than you would think! Typing in trade shows in Google won’t be the end of it; you must do your homework on the show, especially if the show is not local.
New York is a key market, but can also be the most expensive. There are trade shows all over the US and Internationally from Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Seattle and Portland just to name a few. We’ve participated in the past through a Showroom (I’ll save that convo for another day), like StyleMax and LA Fashion Week, but they haven’t always been as successful as we hoped.
Plus there are many different kinds of shows such as, apparel shows, gift shows, home good shows, handmade shows, and accessory shows just to name a few! Since we kinda qualify for a few, we have to really research the show to see if we think our product will do well. Asking yourself what kind of audience does the show appeal to, how many buyers usually attend the show, and is this show the right price point for our product.
Another great way to find out information about different shows is to ask other business owners in your field and see what kind of shows they have attended! Having buyers from all over the country come to the shows is able to give the seller and the their product room to grow.
The buyers have to find products that will sell in their store. So as the brand/seller you need to know your product inside and out. You also need to make sure your margins allow for stores to make money and that their customers will agree with the price value. I know it sounds like a lot, but once you have a product that sells in stores the process does get a little easier. Key is to be at the right markets at the right time.
The process of buying and selling outside of trade shows, can be less expensive but way more time consuming. You have to explore the internet to find the right boutiques and contact them directly hoping they will be interested! Just because you think your product is the right fit, doesn’t mean they will. Getting the product in front of them is really the key to solidifying the sale.
This internship has taught me that it is a lot of hit or miss when it comes to buying and selling, but putting in that effort to go outside of your comfort zone and really push for your product is going to go a long way!