Buying is the most fun you can have! All the reps are your friends and happy to see you. Why wouldn’t they? You’re their meal ticket. A rep shows up in your store or you sit down at his/her table in a merchandise mart or a trade show and you’re the boss – the one with the power, the one with the dollars. How great is that?

So, when it comes time to place those future delivery orders, do you seek out your favorite rep, schmooze a little about the wife, kids, pets, and sports and then start writing orders? Or are you more interested in actually making money? And that’s a whole different ball game.

It’s important to know how each of your vendor’s products sell and what makes them attractive to your customers, but the majority of your customers shop for a category of merchandise rather than a particular vendor. They come to your store with a need for a category of merchandise and hope you can fill that need. Because of this, your sales tracking must be done by category rather than by vendor and so must your planning for future purchases.

Building a buying plan by vendor ignores the category needs of your store/customers. What if next season your favorite vendor takes a wrong turn and their merchandise is not as desirable as merchandise from other vendors – even vendors you have never bought from? If your planning is by vendor, that information is basically useless.

Many retailers feel it is in their best interest to build the vendor’s brand in their store, but while it may pay temporary dividends, in the long haul you should be building your store’s brand by bringing in the best available merchandise from which ever vendor is offering it as long as it meets your category buying plan. Train your customers to come to your store to see what’s new and exciting – and turn it quickly to teach them to make a buying decision rather than to come back later.

So, the two key elements here are planning by category and turning your merchandise. And the way to get this done is open to buy planning (OTB). OTB is built around your categories, your projected sales, and your desired turn rates yielding a buying plan that will meet the needs of your customers.

While the reps will always want to sell you more, no matter how much they protest, they will respect you if you have a fully developed OTB plan when you arrive at a market (or they arrive at your store) and have done your homework by looking at every vendors products and deciding which items (no matter who sells them) are best for your store’s customers. This “one-two” merchandising punch will lead you to victory every time. Having the best available merchandise in the right quantities (turnover), at the right time to support your projected sales will always lead to a positive cash flow and ever increasing profits.

And while the reps might not be as anxious to buy you lunch, you’ll now be in a perfect position to buy them theirs.

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