Journey of the Do – Stage 6 – Buying

This might not be necessary if you’re the product or make the product for your business. As an e-tailer, my wife, and I are going through wholesalers, which means we’ll be buying goods from others. Thus, we’ve decided to attend a couple buying shows throughout the year.

This past weekend we attended Trends in Edmonton as it was stocked with wholesalers shilling their clothing brands. My wife, and I thought we could pull off all our meetings in one day, and we did, but man were we exhausted. We poured over 1000’s of dresses, sweaters, tops, bottoms, and the list goes on. All in the name of finding a few items or brands that will end up lining the online shelves of our store.

The cool thing about being a buyer at these shows is it’s free to attend. You also get to see what the fashion trends are going to be 6-months out. Plus, you get to meet some quirky people (it’s fashion after all). When starting your online biz, you should see if there’s a trade show or buying show in your industry. If you can find one, try and attend it. It’s so difficult, and time consuming to reach out to wholesalers, get their literature, read through it, and figure out what you’re going to buy for your store. These shows put everyone, and everything (well, almost everything) in one place.

clothes, trends, fashion

My wife going through a rack.

Seeing as it was our first show – we wanted to get the ‘lay of the land’ before purchasing anything. Some wholesalers will try to hard sell you, and that’s fine. That’s their job. If attending one of these show go in with a plan.

Planning for your buying show – 10 Tips

1) Reach out to the show before hand to get their literature, and list of wholesalers present at the show. This is a simple Google search away. For the most part it’s effortless to sign up, and the show will ship out their literature within a couple weeks to get you started.

2) Reach out to those wholesalers to book appointments. When your literature arrives, go through it, and start reaching out to wholesalers (if you haven’t already done so). It’s important to book appointments as this gives you one-on-one access to the wholesaler. They’ll also fill you in on what’s selling, and what to look forward to.

3) Attend appointments, and ask questions. If you set an appointment – show up. Pretty straight forward. After all, you’re building relationships with these wholesalers, and you don’t want to rock the boat by missing an appointment. While at the appointment, get to know the wholesalers. Why are they doing this? How did they get into it? What’s selling or has sold in the past? And fill them in on the idea for your store.

4) See product, take pictures, and notes (we used our iPad). All of the wholesalers will have samples of their goods. In my case, it gave me a good idea on the quality of fabric, the cut, and how it will look on the body. My wife, and I took a bunch of pictures, so we could see how the clothes looked on a screen. After all, we’re selling online, so how it looks on a screen is HUGE to us. For example – there was one dress that looked fine in person, but really popped on the screen. There were also numerous scenarios where it was the opposite.

5) Figure out what you’re going to buy (ask for show specials). You can buy right there at your appointment. You might have to limit what you purchase or come back at a later time depending on your budget. You can also change up your order or cancel it later on down the road depending on when stuff is supposed to be shipped to you.

6) Set a budget (if you’re going to be spending money). Don’t blow it all in one place. Generally, these are giant shows, with thousands of wholesalers. Take your time, and don’t get sucked in to buying too much, and blowing your budget. You should have a decent knowledge of how much each brand costs going in as you’ve already spoken with the wholesalers.

7) Figure availability and shipping dates. Some items are available now, and can be shipped the same week. See it, buy it, ship it. Other items are only available a few months out. Be sure to ask your wholesaler these questions if they don’t mention shipping dates.

8) Don’t overbook yourself. This was our error. We made too many appointments in one day. Moving forward – we’ll probably book two appointments in the morning, and two in the afternoon, and call it a day. Then do the same the next day, and the next. This also allows you to take in what happened that day instead of your head turning to moosh. Everything looks, and feels the same after a few appointments.

9) Have fun. You’re there, so you might as well make the most of it. Not too mention, you should leave sometime to explore the city you’re in. This will take your brain away from the show, and the craziness it sometimes brings on.

10) Bring a partner. This allows you to do more in the one-hour you get with the wholesalers. You can run through the racks, as questions, take pictures, and more. If you’re going solo – I can see how this can be extremely overwhelming. Bring a partner if you can, and split up your duties. This also helps you deal with some of the wholesalers who are trying to hard-sell you.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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The Journey of the Do – Stage 4 – The Brand

This week it’s all about the brand. A brand is what your customers think, feel and say about you. Having said that, you can craft your message(s) to make people think, feel and say certain things about you.

In our research phase – my wife, and I checked out the numerous e-commerce fashion sites, and dissected the look of the logo, the style of their website, tested their customer service, ordered products from them, returned products to them, etc… From that we saw what we liked, and didn’t like. In doing this – we’re able to figure out a few differentiating factors for us.

#1 – we’re only going to ship in Canada (sorry, US)
#2 – we’re going to support as many Canadian wholesalers as we can
#3 – we’re going to have a different twist on shipping
#4 – the price is the price is the price (don’t have to worry about paying duty, etc…)
#5 – return policy will be nothing like our Canadian competitors

You also have to factor in what you’re going to do about customer service, and how you respond over the phone, online, social media, etc… It should all be consistent. If you use certain words over the phone, you should also use them online, and vice versa.

bow tie, man

You will rarely see me without a bow tie. Go personal brand!

The above points help out in the feel, and say portion of our brand. For the look – there are numerous sites to go to for logos:

Withoomph
Hipster Logo Generator
GraphicSprings Logo Creator
Logoshi
Logaster

And many more. A simple Google search can also help. If you want someone else to do it for you – I wouldn’t spend more than $500 on a logo design. Yes, a logo is important, but it’s not worth a HUGE investment. Plus, a good one, by a talented designer at most should cost you $500.

The logo is only a portion of the look, as we’ll be ensuring our colour schemes, and looks go across the entire e-commerce site, packaging, etc…

For the logo – we’ve hired a designer who’s done a few other things for us, but you can use any of the sites above. My biggest thing – is you have to be different from your competitors. Just because you like blue – doesn’t mean that’s going to be a core colour of your brand. Five of your competitors could be using blue as a colour.

In our case – we’ve found a couple colours that aren’t being used and we’re going with that as our colour scheme. We’re also using a handwritten script as a font, which is somewhat similar to a few other logos in our space, but our colours are what’s going to set us apart.

From there – we can start building our website. Again, none of this would have happened without the first few steps I wrote about in previous weeks. Some people go out and make logos, print business cards, and all this shit without doing their research, and testing to see whether or not their product / service will sell. My wife, and I have already done this, so now we can spend the extra expense for the ‘professional’ look and feel.

The brand is your baby. Take care of it, but also allow it to evolve with time. As people change, and markets change, and customers change, your brand changes. Never stop testing, and experimenting with new things.

Next week – the website.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft