How To Shop As A Fashion Buyer

Clothing stores of all levels are always full of the season’s latest fashions and these styles aren’t just automatically shipped to the stores from the factories. Fashion buyers have to decide what is going to be sold in their stores and they choose each individual piece themselves. Then they order the quantity and it’s delivered to their stores to be sold. So how do these buyers find all of these fabulous pieces for the stores you shop in?

Fashion buyers have a few different ways of coming across clothes for their stores. They can visit local designers if they’re the type that likes to carry high-end, limited clothing. Or they can order pieces from factory magazines and have large quantities shipped. What happens for most stores that are mid-level and not looking for mass or limited quantities, is that they attend apparel shows.

Apparel shows are conventions where fashion designers and buyers can meet in one place and make orders. It’s often times a one-stop-shop for fashion buyers to fill all of their stock by choosing from hundreds of vendors in one location. Fashion designers and distributors from around the world will fill convention centers with their clothing, either samples of a large quantity or the entire stock of a limited design, and buyers come from all over the country to order the latest trends and styles.

The latest trend in apparel shows is the Virtual Storefront an online version of a vendor’s collection. Buyers can go online and view the entire stock or just a special selection of what the vendor has to offer before they visit the show, giving them a chance to decide who they would like to visit. The Virtual Storefront also provides fabric information and pricing to make shopping faster and easier on the buyer who has hundreds of stores to visit in a matter of days.

Not everyone has access to this temporary shopping mall, in order to access apparel conventions a buyer has to go through a long list of certifications to be sure that they’re not just the everyday shopper looking for a bargain. Buyers have to supply things like a business license, imprinted business check, merchant credit card, personalized business identification and proof of possession of the actual retail store that the clothing will be sold in.

Buyers have to take their jobs very seriously because they are setting their stores up for success for the next season. They have to choose the next big fashion statement so that customers will buy out their stock and make room for the next season’s apparel show finds. The life of a fashion buyer is not as glamorous as it sounds, it is hard work. The fashion you wear today is the result of a fashion buyer’s research and time spent ordering clothes from a wide-range of suppliers.

Love Fashion? Get a Career As a Fashion Buyer!

If you truly love fashion and have a strong desire to become a fashion buyer, then you will need to know a few things about just what they are responsible for doing. Although this sounds like a fashion lover’s dream, it can involve more than you think. Essentially, being a fashion buyer means being responsible for choosing all the various clothing items that will be sold in a certain store. You will also be responsible for communicating with suppliers to ensure that all transactions go as smoothly as possible. It takes a very keen sense of fashion to do this job well, and you will also need to have a head for doing business.

You will find that most people who become fashion buyers start off in retail. There they develop the skills needed to be a fashion buyer and recognize which products are the best for a specific store department. A lot of the time you will also find that people work their way up from being associate fashion buyers, someone who is in charge of just one department, to a full-on buyer in charge of an entire store. Although retail experience is of great help and even considered to be necessary for a job like this, a college degree of some sort helps immensely.

If you truly want to become a buyer, then the best thing that you can do is to get hired in at a retail clothing store, where you can gain plenty of experience and get to where you need to be to land the job of your dreams as a fashion buyer. That kind of experience will give you some of the tools you will need in order to do this job well. Remember also that education is a very critical aspect of getting a fashion buyer job as well. If you are currently going to school or have been thinking about it, you might want to aim for a bachelors in business, fashion merchandising, or marketing.

As a buyer in this industry you will be responsible for increasing the company’s profits by selecting the right combination of clothes for them to carry in each department of the store. The clothes that you choose for a certain store will essentially become the trademark of that store. Your goal will be to improve the company’s earnings and project the best overall image by knowing which clothes to buy. It requires an encyclopedic knowledge of modern fashion as well as knowing which specific articles of clothing to pick out. It is a skill that you will develop over time, but if you are truly committed to becoming a fashion buyer, you have to make sure to receive the proper education and job experience/training.

How To Get Your Fashion Designs in Boutiques: The Inside Scoop From a Fashion Buyer!

Getting your fashion designs in stores can give you major credibility, exposure and prestige! Retail stores have large customer bases, lots of foot traffic, and well-marketed online sites that can really help to launch your brand!

For new designers, I recommend that you focus on getting your designs sold in small boutiques before trying to get into department stores to gain exposure and to learn the ropes. Small boutiques are usually more flexible for new designers and you can use the exposure in their store to help build up press about your brand.

Trend & Lifestyle
Do your designs cater to the stores target demographic? Do your designs fit into the lifestyle of the consumer? Does your product work with what is fashionable/ on trend in their stores? Make sure that you visit stores to make sure your brand makes sense there before setting up meetings with Fashion Buyers. You don’t want to waste a ton of time trying to sell your hipster clothing line to a store, only to realize that they focus on purchasing wear-to-work clothing for businesswomen.

Price Range
Do you understand what customers are willing to pay for your product? How much are customers paying right now for similar products? Have you done your research? Stores have to be able to make a profit and you need to make sure you have priced your designs for you to make a profit before even meeting with any buyers. In a tough economy, Buyers are playing it safe when it comes to price, so this can make or break you.

Hanger Appeal
Does your product sell itself just by being on a hanger or is it tricky and only looks good when a customer tries it on? Your product must function and look fabulous with no explanation/convincing from sales people. Product needs to have hanger appeal that will convince buyers that customers will see your product in their stores and will just have to buy it on the spot!

Fashion Buyers will want to know who else you sell your designs to. Are you established in other stores, like small boutiques or do have a big online following? Will your designs be exclusive to their store or is it the same product that you are selling in other stores?

You have to be able to ship your product on the agreed date. You cannot be late. Trust me, you don’t want to be late…it can become a very, very expensive mistake! If you are late on shipping your product, a buyer might decide to just cancel their order all together, which can potentially put you out of business if it’s a big order because you’ve already spent the money to make the product and now you have nowhere to sent it. Also, how often will you ship new collections? Generally, most brands ship new designs monthly, some ship new product twice a month.

Are you Ready?
Fashion Buyers want to make sure you are really ready to be in business. Their stores credibility is at stake if something goes wrong with your product (such as quality issues, late shipments, etc). Stores are taking a risk by doing business with you and do not want to be let down if you can’t deliver on your agreements.

Next Steps
If Fashion Buyers are excited about your line and you meet all of the applicable criteria that I mentioned in the post, they may want to give you an order. Buyers may want to “test” or try your product in 1 of their stores or in a handful of their stores. You will sell the product to them at a cost price (set by you) and you and the buyer will work out the rest of the details from there.

It can be a difficult for a brand new designer to launch their designs in well-known stores because of the lack of credibility and selling history as a newbie. This is why I recommend that new designers start out trying to sell to small boutiques. You can start out with a small order, as a test and hopefully grow from there.

Some new designers may decide to start out by doing consignment with small boutiques. Selling on consignment basically means that your designs will be put up for sale in the store and you will only get paid for what sells. Just be aware that this concept works to the stores advantage, not yours (there is basically no risk for the store if the product doesn’t sell). You will have to take back what doesn’t sell (or you can try sell it to the store at a discounted price).