A woman called me the other day to talk about open to buy for the new online boutique she was opening. At the time, I was in a noisy environment and asked if I could call her back. She gave me a time and I called only to get voice mail. I called the next day with the same result.

Of course, I left my name and number, but she hasn’t called back and that’s a crying shame. The problem is hers, but she probably doesn’t see it as a problem because most retailers or would be retailers forge ahead in opening their stores using nothing more than their instincts. And their instincts are always wrong. They are on target in terms of styles, but not quantities. Items are important, but retailers succeed or fail based on the quantities they buy.

Opening a store, whether online or brick and mortar, sets up not only the fashion tone, but also the financial tone of your enterprise for years to come. An opening inventory that is too large and out of balance with sales will create markdowns and losses for years to come. That can be avoided by having an open to buy plan in place before you get underway.

An open to buy plan will not only tell you how much to buy for your opening inventory based on your anticipated sales and desired turn rates, it will set up a receiving plan for each month for the next year. In addition, your open to buy plan will guide you in laying out your floor space because your store should be set up to support your sales inventory, not just to hold merchandise. As you go forward, you want to put your energy into being creative and projecting a unique image, not one of markdowns and sales.

Ideally, a retailer will employ an open to buy plan while in the planning stages for the store, but if you’re already underway, there’s no time like the present – and the sooner, the better. For an existing retailer, an open to buy will immediately point out imbalances in current inventory and outstanding orders. Dealing with these problems as soon as possible will put money back in the bank and break the continual overbuying cycle.

Planning a store – open to buy NOW! Running a store – open to buy NOW!

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