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How To Sell – and Sell Well – in a Down Retail Economy

Retailers of Women’s Apparel: The last thing you do in a down economy is to hunker down and wait it out. Sellers need to go into action mode, like re-think price as the only customer motive (it’s not). Time your wholesale buying and inventory. Sell Customer Experience along with The Goods.

Jonathan Gordon, president of Julie Ann Apparel, is our guest author. He knows how to sell women’s clothing in a down economy. It’s a matter of changing your seller mentality … tweaking sales strategies … and personalizing customer service. Take some tips gained from successful wholesaler experience.

–Top Ten Wholesale Blog, Editor


How To Sell – and Sell Well — in a Down Retail Economy
By Jonathan Gordon, President
Julie Ann Apparel

The million-dollar question – How Do I Sell in a Down Economy? – does have an optimistic answer. It’s simple, does not cost a lot of money; in fact, it may even save money as well as your business during tough times.

1. Tap Into Consumer Mentality. Match It.

First, we need to evaluate why sales are slow. Saying “It’s the Economy, Stupid” is simply not enough.

Consumers have money …they are just afraid to let go of it in uncertain economic times. I’m not saying that lowered employment prospects, credit and economic indicators have no impact, or that they’ll always be down. Rather, the mentality of the consumer has changed. And sellers of ladies wholesale apparel, as well as retailers of women’s clothing, have to change their mentality as well.

Let’s look at how the consumer’s mentality has changed.
· They are holding onto their money, concerned about the future, and less likely to spend it frivolously.
· This doesn’t mean that they will never buy clothing again.
· It doesn’t even mean that they are going to look only for cheap clothing.

Look at consumer purchases as more than price.

Price is not the main concern of the consumer. You can’t just lower your prices and think that customers will come flying in. At Julie Ann Apparel, we’ve already seen that this past holiday season. Everyone offered discounts of 50-70% off; and this just bounced off the consumer and had very little effect. There has to be more to the purchase than price.

2. Change Buying Patterns to Match Customer Need.

Retailers need to change their buying patterns to match their customers’ mood. This will be a little different for each store. For example, some retailers will gain sales by being ahead of the market, in terms of season and styles. This combination will work for some clothing retailers, but not for all.

Other timing options:
· I know stores that bring Spring goods into their inventory in early December; and that timing works great for some.

· Other apparel retailers are better off bringing Spring merchandise in closer to actual Spring weather.

3. Improve Your Inventory Picks.

Inventory is your largest and most important purchase. We need to take a hard look at this, and find ways to improve it.

· The best way to insure that we have what the consumer wants is not to predict, but to know what they want, what our unique customers’ preferences and styles are. If you have what the consumer wants at the right time, you will make sales.

· Most retailers find that not playing a guessing game with inventory will help. Let other stores play the guessing game. You need to use real information and data to improve your inventory, including tracking trends from your customer profiles and at industry sites (women’s fashion, wholesale apparel trends, retailing demands).

4. Work With a Trusted Clothing Wholesaler.
Working with a good wholesale clothing company, such as Julie Ann Apparel , is the first step. A good wholesaler will have the right inventory, at the right price; so that you don’t have to predict trends or speculate on business conditions three-to-six months out. A trusted wholesale clothing supplier makes it much easier to evaluate buyer/ inventory information and act on it, in a way that meets your own business needs. (Toss the tea leaves!)

· The apparel wholesaler should have a constant stream of new inventory. Lean on them, place smaller orders, and bring in more items more often.

· This small order and streaming strategy will make you control your inventory, and also ensures that you carry the items that are selling today.

· A good wholesaler does not buy “leftover goods.” They have a large supplier list and connections to get the right items. They use their buying power to their advantage, and it is up to you to take advantage of this for your business.

· If you can control your inventory, your largest purchase area, using the above strategy, then you control your cash flow. And, that is half the game.

5. Customer Service Beyond the Clothing Purchase.

The other half of a successful retail strategy during down economic times is understanding that the consumer wants more for her purchase than simply clothing. A customer with disposable cash can go to any store and spend money. The question is: Why should they spend at your store?

· A first-step answer: Because you know what they want. You know they want to be wowed; not only do they want to feel good about their purchase, but they want it to be an experience. You know they want their $50.00 purchase to give them $1000.00 worth of entertainment. Plus, they want to feel “like a million” and be treated like a star.

· The second-step answer to delivering beyond the clothing is to make sure that your staff understands those customer needs and tall orders noted above.

When a customer comes in your store, does your staff say: “May I help you?” or “Looking for anything in particular?”

That’s not how to treat a star! Selling is entertaining and it starts with personal touches. Selling As Entertainment says: I care about you, and I want you to come in my store and have a good time. Customers want to know that they will be treated well.

· Tips to Staff to Personalize Selling: They should send out personal cards and letters, call customers on the phone and build personal relationships that will stand the test of a tough economy.

Certain items are always tough to come by, such as Plus Size clothing, that is always in short supply. Call a plus size customer and tell them that you have the perfect item, just for them. Not only will that personal touch make them feel good, but holding the item until they can get to your store (you know the item will go fast) will make them feel like a star!

The best part of the above strategies is that they focus on two areas that we can control: Inventory and Customer Service. We can succeed, even in a down economy, by changing the retailing areas we can control, without spending a lot of money.

Happy retailing!

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1 Comment

Comment by xinhongxiang
December 7, 2010 @ 8:44 AM

Customer Service Beyond the Clothing Purchase.This small order and streaming strategy will make you control your inventory, and also ensures that you carry the items that are selling today.xinhongxiang

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