Hayley Hoyle owns two highly successful shops in Harrogate – The Harrogate Bridal Lounge and The Bridal Collection. A dedicated buying plan is core to the growth of her business; here she passes on those well-learned lessons
Having just returned from two huge buying events – the London and Barcelona Bridal Weeks – I have been reflecting on the importance of forward planning for such trips.
I have two boutiques and, between them, pretty much span every corner of the bridal market, so as far as I am concerned preparation and discipline are fundamental to successful buying. Below are some of my top tips for getting the most out of your time…
Analyse the stats
Pull the figures for all of your designers, number of gowns sold, turnover, profit, previous sample spend and so on and work out your return on investment. This will help you when you come to discussing how much you have to reinvest in the next collection.
Also pick out notable best-sellers and biggest flops from previous buys, to avoid duplication or making the same mistakes again. Go on to the stand armed with your full facts and figures for both parties to discuss. If the facts are there for all to see, you are less likely to deviate from the plan.
The suppliers should also then be able to analyse your collection with you and suggest ways to maximise the stock you already have.
Always write out a buying plan
With so many people to see, I find it better to stick to a strict schedule. Left to roam as and when I please, I would procrastinate over dresses for hours, talking myself in and out of things all the time. Setting myself a time limit means I have to buy with my gut and not over-think things (another reason to have your facts and figures to hand).
Buying is hard work and requires concentration, so make sure you schedule drink and snack breaks to keep you hydrated and your head clear of the ivory haze.
Take your team with you
If you have staff, I highly recommend taking them with you. For me, it’s proved invaluable staff training. It gets the team excited about the gowns and invested in the collections you are buying. It also gives them a sense of responsibility for the purchases.
Let the team select a couple of pieces they love, too. Being able to talk to brides confidently and enthusiastically about your collections is vital to the selling process. My team take pride in being part of that process, and I like to reward their hard work with a little involvement in a nice element of our job.
It’s also great for team morale, plus it means we’re all in the know about new things coming into store.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate (and/or mull things over)
When I say ‘buy with your gut’ I mean don’t over-think styles or colourways or sizes. If it comes down to matters of business such as a big price increase, a decrease in exclusivity radius, an increase in minimums and so on; it’s important to be clear about your expectations and what you can accommodate.
If a supplier is uncompromising on a particular element such as minimums, consider: would it be viable if they allowed you a bigger area of exclusivity? Whatever the scenario, there should be a compromise – it’s in the interest of both parties for the relationship to be a long-term success.
If you feel you are drawing the short straw, don’t be afraid to park discussions and go away to consider things fully; there should be no feelings of getting a raw deal.
Finally, enjoy it!
There can be some unpleasant parts of our job, but for me, buying is one of the highlights. Plan your time so you get to do it in a calm, considered and enjoyable way, and you will come home inspired, having made some great business decisions.
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