INDUSTRY EXPERTS ON: Buying Appointments 101
You’ve created the collection. You’ve complied a lookbook. You’ve written a press release. You’ve hosted a fashion show. So, now what? The next step for many designers is hosting buying appointments with buyers that represent physical stores and online selling platforms around the world. Buyers are the individuals responsible for selecting and getting the collections they’ve witnessed on the runway, into their stores, and eventually into the wardrobes of consumers.
Not Just A Label asks Olivela Chief Merchandising Officer, Maria Milano, and Designer, Kitty Joseph, amongst others, on what makes the difference between a mathematical migraine, and a successful buying appointment.
Maria Milano, Olivela Chief Merchandising Officer
"I have always admired Creative Directors who really know their businesses - even if you have dedicated team members to cover merchandising and/or finance I think it's really important to be on top of your numbers. It's your business at the end of the day and no one has invested as much as you have.
Other than that, my best advice would be to research each store/buyer you are meeting with in advance of the appointment to understand their respective curation, customer, sell-through expectations, and marketing options. If you see an opportunity with a retailer to produce an exclusive style that is a great way to get some additional coverage. However, make sure that the minimums work for you and that you're not putting too much pressure on production. And finally, deliveries are super-important! Know your dates and stick to them."
Kitty Joseph, Designer
“As a designer who wholesaled at the start of my career with stores such as the iconic Colette, I learned a lot of lessons along the way. Always have a clear line-sheet with versions in various currencies. I picked up a lot of stores from Hong Kong and Japan and I think this helped. Anything to make the buyers life easier.
Learn from your last season and use this to prepare for your next: take time to reflect fully on your successes and failures, noting down buyer’s comments at appointments. Try and chase up on sales reports from stores too as this can all help inform the design process. Having said that - maintaining your creative integrity and not trying to appeal to everyone is important. There’s a fine balance to be achieved between design led and sales led decisions.”
Victoria FitzGerald, Freelance Buyer
“My advice to emerging designers is to let your samples speak for themselves. Make sure that the select few that you chose to highlight are representative of your brand and design ethos, as well as true to the practical quality of your work. Try and avoid statements like 'the colour is lighter in this sample but will be darker when you receive your order'. Consistency and professionalism separate the wheat from the chaff again and again. Find confidence in your assured quality and vision, and it should do most of the talking for you.”
Olivia Madigan-Shea, Jewellery Designer
“I prepare for a buyer’s appointment by holding a meeting with my sales and PR manager. We go over any feedback from the buyer, especially if it’s a second or a third meeting with the same account. Understanding the platform you are meeting with is one of the most important things when starting out with wholesale. Knowing what works for their customer and curating a collection around this will really make your brand stand out.
I’m a perfectionist so before the buying meeting we take time to make sure all my costings are up to date; the line sheet is looking good and that everything is in keeping with the brand. We usually bring the buyer to my showroom or out for dinner and make it a relaxed and personal affair - this helps build a relationship.”
Selena Wu, Mood Consultancy Founder
“Firstly, buyers love meeting with designers, but as the designer of the product, you’re not always going to be able to get useful feedback. Buyers are very wary of saying less than positive things to the person who has designed the products. This is where having someone specifically to manage sales can be very valuable. The further removed from the designer they are, the better – someone in-house is good, but an independent sales agent or a wholesale agency is even better. Buyers feel much more comfortable giving hard to hear feedback to someone who is a bit more independent as they won’t have to worry about upsetting someone and if there are issues with your products. It’s better to find out as early as possible rather than consistently underperform in sales. Someone experienced in managing sales will also be invaluable when it comes to negotiating payment terms, discounts, and marketing opportunities.
Secondly, when presenting your collection, do talk about the inspiration, but try to distil this to one or two key points or features. Especially during market, buyers are seeing many collections, so information needs to be memorable and easy to digest. In addition, always remember to provide information of commercial importance - which styles are new, which styles are carried over, elements from previous seasons which appear again or have been developed. If you have the information, then highlight your best sellers and sell through previous seasons if it is performing well.”