Managing Your Open-to-Buy

Trade shows can be a challenge for retail buyers. There is a ton of seemingly random activity, and most retailers tell us that they never have enough time to get everything done that they want to do at the show.

After having been to many shows, and interviewing retailers, Management One shares some insights on how to have the most successful experience at any trade show, both large and small.

Here are some tips to make the investment in time, money and effort much more effective:

I. Do your homework
Review POS reports on vendors, styles and attributes to know which products are selling in your store. Prepare a vendor scorecard that shows how your current vendors performed last season.

As you review each of your classifications, break up your open-to-buy (OTB) budget so that you spend some money on new trends, experimental products, as well as tried-and-true staples.

II. Write your merchandise/purchasing plan before you leave home
An OTB plan tells you how much of each category and when to land it.
The assortment plan tells you what to buy:
a. vendors you want to visit
b. styles you need
c. colors and fabrication
d. what customers want
Schedule your time so you get to do all you need to do.

III. Work the show
Shows are a great opportunity to seek out new vendors and new opportunities. Don’t just go to the same vendors you are already buying from. Find new vendors and new products.
Review your most profitable classifications and see if you can increase your business. What are you missing that your customers would love to buy from you? Show specials offered by vendors could cause you to alter your plan. If you have to leave paper, make sure you write “Hold For Confirmation” on the orders so that you have time to review and ensure that you are buying precisely what you need.

IV. Remember who you are buying for
It is easy to get caught up in the mania of any trade show. Take notes about your purchases with amounts and descriptions for each vendor. Make sure you have not duplicated styles across vendors. Your job as a buyer is to pick the best of the best for your customers! Review your purchases when you get back to your hotel room. You can (and will probably need to) edit your purchases after you’ve had the chance to review them.

V. Enjoy Yourself
Most trade shows offer great educational programs, delivered by industry experts. Take the time to learn from these people. The retail business continues to evolve as the economy changes, and you owe it to yourself, your employees and your customers to benefit from these programs. Also: Take some breaks and relax during the day. Socialize with other retailers and vendors. You can learn a lot about the business while doing this, but you can also have some fun and cement long-term relationships this way. If the show takes place in a city that you have not been to before, take some time to see that city, explore its restaurants, attractions, etc.

It may seem obvious, but a successful trade show experience begins with an accurate open-to-buy budget for each classification of merchandise in your business. From there you can develop an assortment plan to make sure you get the right balance, flow and selection in your business. Of course, this must fit your financial and cash flow plan.

Managing your Open-to-Buy does not have to be complicated or difficult to implement. If you want to know about effectively managing your open-to-buy, contact Dan Jablons of Retail Smart Guys.



Retail Smart Guys is a consulting firm, specializing in assisting retail stores with their inventory planning and open to buy.  The firm was started by Dan Jablons, who has over 30 years of experience working in and consulting with retail companies, from single-store mom-and-pop operations to major retail chains.  He has also worked extensively with point-of-sale systems, including Retail Pro, QuickBooks Point of Sale, and Microsoft Dynamics.

Dan is also an actor, writer, director, and musician. He has appeared in more than 20 films, and has performed across the country with The Really Spontaneous Theatre Company.



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