One thing retailers do is to keep busy – too busy! Of the thousands of retailers I have spoken with over the years, their biggest problem is that they are so busy “putting out fires”, that they don’t have time to deal with the one thing that will solve their problems.

Once a retailer is underway, things should not be allowed to become overwhelming. There are going to be problems with personnel, merchandise, displays, advertising, banking, the weather, utilities and every imaginable thing. As a retailer you will be required to deal with all of it. But early planning will go a long way toward keeping things running smoothly before they become problems.

The biggest problem retailers face is merchandise. Having enough and not having too much are critical problems. Having too little merchandise will mean missed sales and having too much will mean markdowns. Neither is good for your financial health and both create more work and “fires” to put out. A buying plan tied to anticipated sales and desired turn rates will virtually eliminate these problems and takes far less time than dealing with the problems, but many retailers feel they are already too busy to deal with open to buy planning.

But developing a buying plan is time well spent. Consider how smoothly your store would run if you always had the right amount of merchandise in the right area at the right time. Seasons would change and styles would change and you would always be on target with just the right amount of the newest and best merchandise available. Markdowns are profit killers, and would diminish noticeably as sales and profits increase.

So, retailers must develop, maintain, and revise an open to buy plan monthly so that they are ordering to support sales and not to fill space. The resulting growth in turnover will be reflected in not only growth in your bottom line, but expansion of your available time. When you’re not spending your time “putting out fires” because of poor or non-existent planning, you will have the time to do the planning necessary to make your store run smoothly and consistently profitable.

Your open to buy plan is the critical element in all of your planning since everything that happens in your store revolves around your merchandising.

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