You are about to be tempted, romanced, encouraged, brow-beaten, threatened and sold (not necessarily in that order). Anything you imagined will be at the show and it will be hard to pass up any of it – but you must if you want to survive. You must have a plan to guide you through the mine field that is the show floor. Without a plan, you will experience catastrophic downturns in your cash flow as you proceed through the coming months. Beloved, anticipated merchandise will arrive creating euphoria. Invoices will come due creating depression and panic.
If you have a plan – an open-to-buy plan – you are in the driver’s seat. You know what your needs are based on what you expect (realistically) to sell in each category of merchandise at the turn rates you want to achieve. You realize how important turnover is to your bottom line and you realize that the bottom line is what it’s all about. If you are in this decided minority – congratulations. You’re ready to go. Your experience should be rewarding as you stay with your plan.
But most retailers who in their best self-destructive voice cry out, “I know what my customer wants. I know what sells. I don’t need to plan. I can work it out in my head as I go!” Some of you will guess right and survive another season of nail biting. Most will be over-run with invoices and sales that, while good, are not good enough to cover all the bills. Many will just run out of cash and close their stores. Don’t let this happen to you!
Well before any buying is done, an open-to-buy plan must be constructed for the next 12 months. It is revised on a monthly basis after the sales, inventory and turns from the month just completed are analyzed and trends identified. Open-to-buy is never static. It reacts to the forces that shape your business and keeps you on track to financial success. When you go to a show with your open-to-buy plan, you have the one tool that will insure that you order properly in each category. You will find as the months progress that your inventory is fresher, better balanced, turns faster and requires far fewer markdowns.
So, enjoy the show. But get your open-to-buy plan underway as soon as possible. Your survival may depend on it – your success most certainly does!