Greetings Today magazine, giving you the bigger picture

28 January, 2010

All the fun of the Fair

By Lewis Eckett, editor - Greetings Today

First of all, anyone out there who is considering staying away from Spring Fair this February – think again.

I realise there’s a significant cost attached to visiting any trade show: the travel, the parking and maybe the hotel, but you need to consider what you will be missing by electing to stay at home.
The opportunity to see the best and brightest card publishing talent available in the UK in one place is not to be missed for any retailer, whether it is a small independent cardie or a chain of high street stores.

Please don’t think I’m trying to teach anyone to suck eggs here but profitable selling requires smart, creative buying. I’ve been involved with retail businesses that have failed to understand this basic principle and seen what damage it causes.

It comes down to a failure to plan, which in turn means you end up planning for failure. New stock is the lifeblood of any retail business and buying effectively is a key discipline.
But having just got over the Christmas hump and with Valentines fast approaching, a fair few people will be rejecting the opportunity to look forward and buy new stock. That’s understandable. But it’s not something to be recommended.

Many card retailers are risk adverse and buy from the same suppliers year in year out. In this situation buying becomes more of a process than a key skill. Successful retailers are avid buyers of new lines and have no qualms about kicking established players out of their stores if their offer no longer fits the bill.

So many stores cling to lines well past their profitable period and are invariably left with space-hogging slow sellers that give the store an eclectic junk shop feel. This is bad for business. Getting rid of slow-moving lines and using the space for new stock and fresh ideas is essential to keep customers coming back.

Spring Fair is the perfect opportunity for retailers to get up and personal with new stock, new ideas and new horizons. This should give you a good an overview of what’s out there and because everything’s in one place you can compare different suppliers and products and build a proper framework for your business going forward.

You also get the chance to research other areas of the wider gift market for products and lines that will complement your core card business.

Shows like Top Drawer and Spring Fair also offer the opportunity to get close to your suppliers and strengthen the bonds between you. The relationship between buyers and sellers should be a partnership at the best of times, but when times are tough it becomes even more important to collaborate as closely as possible with your key allies.

Clearly, there will be retailers who will want to avoid some suppliers – those they owe money to mostly. But even this situation should be met head on rather than avoided. Most suppliers I speak to would rather see you at the show to sort things out constructively.

Fortunately, the greetings sector seems to have weathered the economic storm quite well. There is still good margin to be had for the independents and the threat from the supermarkets and multiples jostling for footfall at the value end of the market is still just that – a threat.

Nonetheless, cannot afford to relax. You can stay in your store, save for the occasional visit to the wholesalers, or wait for the regular reps to turn up and take you through the new lines. Alternatively, you can be a bit more proactive and enjoy the opportunity to see everything together in one place.

And that process starts with Spring Fair.

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