Staying lean and mean but not missing the opportunities.

As anticipation builds for the arrival of your new Fall products, many retailers optimistically think that their vendors will ship on time, the weather will be just right and sales will be a success. The reality is that things always change – particularly in today’s challenging economy. You can help yourself navigate uncertainty by making good decisions well in advance, when you place your orders.

Some things to consider in your planning:

•    Manage markdowns before the season gets rolling. The goal is to keep your inventory lean and avoid long periods of time between product arrival and product sell thru. For example, fall fever may start in August with back-to-school shoppers in full gear and the traditional summer months coming to an end, but if you know your customers will still be wearing shorts in October, hold off on having too much Fall arrive too soon. Manage in the in and outflow of your products.

•    Flow in the Fall product so you have a smaller section of “new” items that will sit next to your current Summer season product.  This section grows as you get deeper into the Fall season.

•    Flow lightweight Fall product alongside the existing Summer product. Enforce the message by visually merchandising summer and lighter fall products together.

•    Bring in a small delivery of the current Summer products late in the season to revitalize your inventory.

•    Take advantage of supplier markdowns to build margin on late season ASAP orders.

In summary, keep your floor current according to the buying trends of your customers. As independent retailers, you have more control over the ins and outs of your product arrival and sell thru than big box retailers. Lean on this advantage as you make your purchasing and delivery date decisions. Keep some extra dollars available for product purchases made in the middle of the season. As much as we want to predict what the best seller will be before it hits our floors, there might be a surprise or two that will improve  your assortment.

Markdowns are inevitable for most retailers, but your goal should be to plan for as few as possible. If you take these steps into consideration during your next buy season, it’s likely you will see a big difference in your markdowns once products arrive. Keep a realistic mindset when making buying decisions. Keep that floor fresh and relevant!   — Brain Thompson, Director of Sales, Horny Toad and Nau clothing