This week I had the opportunity to shadow a buyer from the women’s athletic section in the Burlington New York Office. We started by looking at their Holiday Reports, or more so making them. Sorting by color, brand, style, price and more, I got to see how the buyers truly maxed out their analytical skills on the biggest report of the year, which gets sent to their CEO among many other important people. One fun aspect I discovered during this process was that between basic and fashion colors, black and pink tend to be the best-selling colors at Burlington, while blue tends to be dead last in every product assortment they offer.
After learning some new terms in the retail realm, I headed down the block with two of the associate buyers toward another office. Once there, we were greeted by the front desk and offered a beverage. A few moments later, a woman came over and we introduced ourselves as she led us back to the showroom.
In the showroom, three vendors entered and gave us a little bit of background information on Nicole Miller, a new athletic brand featuring an older, but extremely athletic woman named, you guessed it, Nicole Miller.
After hearing a bit about her story, a vendor handed each of us a lookbook of the new athletic products they wanted to pitch in order to sell at Burlington. Each style was introduced one by one, as the vendor allowed us to feel the quality of the fabrics (which is of huge importance for Burlington) and told us a little more about the color and style of each.
After that, the buyers asked questions such as:
“When will the products be ready for shipment?”
“What’s a ballpark range you’re hoping to see in the marketplace?”
“Are you selling to any other brands like ours?”
“If you had to compare yourself to a brand, which one would you say that you’re closest to?”
These questions are all extremely important to know the answers to if you’re looking to make a business decision, especially with a retailer such as Burlington. This particular buyer did not have much wiggle room for upfront buying, so the offer truly would mean a lot wherever she’d choose to spend that money. I went out of this meeting feeling refreshed; it was so fun to be able to see products before the general public and meet with new people while searching for one of my favorite parts of business, which happens to be collaborating.
After the meeting, the two buyers and I headed to Burlington to do some comp shopping at Urban Outfitters. and they taught me a few tricks to look for while doing so. For instance, if you see something on clearance in a store, that is because it isn’t selling. In other words, this product is not something that Burlington will want to invest in.
Another aspect to look at is pricing. You should know what products are selling for in the market so you don’t get played while negotiating with the vendors. For instance, if I see a shirt for $12 at Urban Outfitters, but then a vendor tries to sell me a shirt just like it for $14, I’ll know that the price is not something I should be accepting. This kind of knowledge is extremely invaluable in a field such as buying.
Lastly, I found that comp shopping is a great idea to see what styles are on fire in the market. For instance, we found tons of leopard print and snake skin as well as sherpa jackets. Knowing what is working well for other companies will help your company stay relevant and in the competition.
After buying seeing products such as these succeed in their stores this year, the buyers need to decide whether or not they should buy them for next season, as many are on tight schedule due to the Chinese New Year coming up so soon and the factories over there shutting down for so long after that.
The truth is, you never really can be sure if something is going to sell well or not. You just need to commit to it, order it early and hope for the best. If it’s a success, great. If not, that is when it’s time to start marking down products, which is another layer that I won’t go too much into. This experience in shadowing a buyer from Burlington was truly invaluable to me and I feel so much more knowledgable about the position after seeing what a day in it truly looks like.