Do you need to learn the basics of working with buyers? Do you need to find boutiques that will sell your designs? Learn the inside scoop on working with retail buyers from fashion industry experts Mary Vallarta and Melissa McGraw now!
Mary Vallarta, FAB Counsel
With over 9 years of experience in the buying offices of Macy’s, BCBG, Metropark, & Bebe, Mary Vallarta knows what designers need at every stage of the buying process. In January 2012, Vallarta launched FAB Counsel, a consulting business, to help store owners, designers, tech start-ups, and first-time entrepreneurs flourish in the retail fashion world. Mary Vallarta provided Fashion Mingle with the following industry-exclusive tips:
Style: When I was a buyer, I wanted to make sure that the style and the price of the line matched what my customers liked and [desired]. As a buyer, you are not buying for yourself, you are buying for your customers. So whatever line you are looking at must mimic the rest of the brands in the department. The line must be priced compatible with what your customers can afford to buy.
Delivery: Designers must be organized and be on top of all deliveries. Buyers do not like late deliveries as it means lost revenue. Another thing to be careful about is damaged goods. Sometimes that happen and it is unavoidable, so it is really important to be organized and always have an efficient way to deal with these situations and do whatever it takes to fix the problem. If a delivery is going to be late, tell the buyer as early as you can so they can have the opportunity to schedule a different delivery within their time frame.
Online Stores: Photography is something online stores have to really think about because certain patterns, colors and styles might look different on computers. Models can have a really strong influence on how well a style sells. Sometimes when you have a garment that isn’t selling you can place it on a different model and it will start selling.
Melissa McGraw, The Fashion Potential
During her fifteen years working in the NYC fashion industry, Melissa McGraw rose through the fashion ranks by managing million dollar accounts for Calvin Klein Jeans, Cynthia Rowley, L.A.M.B., Nicole Miller and more. A true entrepreneur by nature, in 2010 McGraw created The Fashion Potential, a platform which offers consulting services to fashion startups who want to launch their business the right way. The following tips from McGraw will help you understand the retail fashion buying process.
Branding: The first thing I tell designers to do is really think about their brand message. You can get the attention of a buyer if you can talk about your brand and explain what you do in a one minute sentence. A long-winded story about how your brand came to be might not really grab the attention of the buyer. You really have to know who and what you stand for, what your brand is all about and how it is different from the rest of the competition out in the marketplace.
Manufacturing: Everyone wants to produce in America, but it might not be cost effective to do so, especially as a designer’s line gets bigger and they need to go overseas to get better pricing where volume discounts are better and production time may be faster. It really depends on if designers can afford to produce in the states. Are they going to price themselves out of the market completely compared to the rest of the competition?
Line Sheets: Designers often make the mistake of not having a line sheet to really back up [their] brand. The first thing that a buyer is going to ask is [if] you have a line sheet? They want to refer to it and look at your pricing and they want to see you are retail ready. Do you have a hang tag, do you have a label, do your garments look finished? All of these things are very important to them.
Watch the full video interview:
Note: This video contains audio feedback we were not able to fix during the live interview.
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