Top Tips For That First Buyers Meeting
Everyone knows that landing an appointment with a buyer is extremely tough, so when you do you need to ensure you are fully prepared – Jenny Holloway shares her top tips…
Jenny Holloway has been a buyer for Littlewoods, a selector for M&S and a senior buyer for Principles for Women. Following this career she commenced her own label for over ten years. Throughout a series of articles Jenny is providing insider tips of the trade to help new and emerging designers succeed with their businesses.
So you have a confirmation of date, time and venue with the buyer and you are now preparing for that all important meeting to showcase and preview your collection.
The first and most obvious point to raise is DON’T BE LATE! Many times I have been running down Oxford Circus on my way to see a buyer from the Arcadia Group with a bag of samples feeling physically sick. By the time you get to 70 Berners Street Colegrave House you are hot and sweaty and it’s just not a good way to start is it.
Check out the venue before you go – make sure you know exactly where it is. I always take one of those printed street maps wherever I go but I still manage to get lost around London but at least with a printed street map I can ask a passer by for directions!
You then have to go in and register. Over the years I have waited at least 15 minutes to register if it’s a busy period. I arrived with ten minutes to spare but still late because of the receptionists or a large crowd of students on a work experience visit. Don’t leave yourself exposed to this. Give yourself a clear 30 minutes before your appointment time. You also want to get settled and have your paperwork and garments ready for review.
Once you have signed in the visitors book and you are on the way to the Buyers Reception ask the receptionist if she knows where the meeting will take place. If she does or hazards a guess then you can take a flyer and start setting up. It’s actually difficult to set up with your garments and rail, paperwork and press books whilst having a conversation with a buyer at the same time. Better to try and set up BEFORE she enters into the room so you are all professional and ready to go.
I went to Selfridges quite recently and there was not a cage to hang the garments on only a coat rack…I had over 30 garments with me and eventually had to lay them on the floor. I wasn’t particularly impressed that such a large organisation that is so upmarket didn’t have a rail or a cage to place garments on for a presentation! However it put me in a difficult situation with fingers and thumbs flying everywhere and garments sliding off hangers.
Previously when I did buyers meetings all the time I used to have a collapsible rail and this was a God send! They are around £80 from Morplan and well worth the investment. They come in a case too so they are easy to carry if not a bit heavy. But how professional it makes you….the rail pops up you put on the garments in the right order and off you trot!
– to have the same hanger (believe it or not I see new designers with a various assortment and many with wire dry cleaning ones – unbelievable!
– to be covered with a plastic bag – so much more professional and shows that you care about your garments. If you don’t care about them why should the buyer.
– must have a swing ticket on in the same consistent order, normally LHS as worn under the arm pit under the waist band of skirts or trousers.
– use all the same methods of attachment for the swing tickets e.g. silver safety pins or swift tags? use the same type of ribbon too.
– put the garments in the right order of your presentation. Also have the paperwork available for you AND the buyer to follow through. Make the buyers job as easy as possible and she wants to see you calm and collected and not fingers and arms flying all over the rail trying to find the right garments.
– sounds obvious this one but no loose threads or dirty marks please. Many new designers wear their garments to showcase them further to friends and family if you do this then professionally dry clean if they are silks and then take off the cleaning tag.
– above all treat the garments with reverence…this was drummed in to us with all the retailers. Don’t drag a garment across the table for the buyer to view. Lift it up and present the garment and almost cradle it in your arms…be proud of your garments and treat them with respect. They are your meal ticket after all.
If you go into a room with a window try and sit with your back to the window – this way if the sun goes by the window and it shines into the room it won’t hit you in the eyes! Also with light behind you your pupils dilate and you look more attractive too!
Now let’s move on to the presentation itself.
Now everyone is different and because of that be yourself. If you really feel nervous and you think you are going to let yourself down then try and joke it off and say that you are excited and pleased to be here and you’re a bit nervous. We are all human at the end of the day and sometimes it helps to break the ice. You need to judge this of course by the buyer herself. It doesn’t always work!
Remember to ask about the buyer, how she is; how the department is doing; are sales up or down on the year. Remember this is where your comparative and directional shop comes in to play. Eventually you will get to know names and people and it’s always good to name drop a little! It’s good for your street cred to be in the know.
Introduce yourself with a business card, be positive, smile and breathe! Then move on to your presentation in a logical fashion. This is the order I used to work to:
– Overview of me and my experience
– Review of the company (also provided a company overview so she could keep it on file for later – probably went in the bin but at least I had one!)
– A review of the buyers company – remember the comparative and directional shop from last weeks article? I would also produce a report if it was a big meeting too and hand this over as well.
– Style books
– Press books
– Then on to the garment presentation.
Remember all the time you need to keep looking and assessing if you have your pitch right. Is the buyer smiling? Does she look bored? Is she being continually interrupted by her assistants so she is distracted?
Keep the presentation flexible because you have to engage with this buyer and change the presentation accordingly. If it’s obvious that the buyer is under pressure and something is going wrong offer to reconvene. I know its galling to do this but honestly there is no point standing there selling your heart out if she is not even paying attention and her propensity to buy is not there. No one wants to do this but I have before now and the buyer was grateful and reconvened there and then with a new date.
Other situations to be prepared for include buyers being late (8 times out of ten they are and before now I have waited over an hour to see a buyer) also that the buyer does not attend but sends in her assistant to see you. Remember that some assistants are very powerful and are shortly to be promoted to a buyer. You have to make the most of the opportunity and sell your heart out anyway.
During the presentation go through the garments in the right order. On the swing tickets I never ever wrote down the price of the garment I kept this flexible until the last moment and tried to get the buyer to advise price points rather than me being off the mark. Remember it’s always easier to come down in price but virtually impossible to go up in price when you have mentioned a price point.
The duration of the meeting depends on the buyer naturally but don’t read too much into anything re time. I have had meetings which lasted 15 minutes and where highly productive and others where I was there an hour and absolutely nothing came of it.
When the presentation is coming to the end wind up by asking questions and keeping the presentation going – don’t wind down. This is a common mistake and then the presentation ends flat.
Ask if she or he liked the garments and what kind of potential you have, what plans are occurring for the retailer in the future. The buyer will or should pull out garments during the presentation that she is interested in so make sure you have paper and pen at hand or use your line drawings to make notes.
Normally buyers will ask you to change a garment to fit into a theme; this is so common so don’t get protective or annoyed as buyers have design briefs to work too. Make sure you know all the prices of your garments (high levels and absolute minimums and do not buy the business just to open an account. Equally important is that you know lead times and make sure you have availability on fabric, trims, production etc. Don’t waste the buyer’s time showing her a garment if you can not make it available without minor amends. You can say that you have had a previous best seller or show a garment for style but don’t promise something you can’t deliver.
Make sure that by the time you finish you have a clear plan of action i.e. re-making garments, re-submitting sketches etc or if the meeting didn’t go well try and keep the door open for the following season or ask for advice on where the product failed to live up to expectations.
Always smile and thank the buyer for her time. Take her business card and keep in touch with an immediate thank you email for her time.
Best of luck – it gets easier as time progresses and the more you do the better you become. The first one is always the most difficult and some designers take a colleague there for additional support. There is merit in this but try and get consent before you go with the buyer and say that you are bringing along your assistant. There are some very cramped buying offices around.
Remember we are here to support you so if you need to discuss anything in this article further please contact us.
Jenny Holloway CEO FashionCapital / Fashion Enter