Shop Smart
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

Residential Lighting: Summer market season is in full swing, with the Las Vegas show July 24-28. How can buyers best prepare?

Floyd Veal: Have your pre-game plan ready. I recommend an 8-by-10-inch notebook with alphabetical dividers for vendor notes and a section for product data, which will help you in disciplined buying.

    You need to know what will be presented at the market according to trends and fashion. Start by reading the shelter magazines and industry trade publications. After recognizing new trends, review and compare them with your target customer and your current inventory.


    Utilizing GMROI [gross margin return on investment/inventory] and inventory turnover as measurements will help you make decisions about products that need to be eliminated and what to look for at market. Then meet separately with your sales-people and operational staff about products and current vendors.

    Bring all of this information with you, including your open-to-buy reports broken down by department and merchandise charts that show every department in the store—slotted by style and price point. This will help you buy to predetermined merchandise slots and not end up with much more merchandise than you can display on the salesfloor.


RL: What’s the at-market gameplan?

FV: Early to bed and early to rise. Shop three different vendors: current vendors, competitors’ vendors (trust me, your competitors shop yours) and new vendors that carry categories for your target customer. Position yourself to get to know people. I am a big advocate of attending vendors’ after-hour functions. Make as many as time allows and try to meet upper-level management.

    Take plenty of photos of merchandise, asking for permission. You want photos of merchandise you have committed to, product that caught your eye and displays you’d like to emulate. To find hot, new items, listen to the talk at market, read the trade magazines and ask sales reps.


RL: And after market?

FV: Usually, you don’t have to make major buying decisions until you can do a post-market review. While sometimes you make commitments at market to lock up distribution, you’ll be okay if you’ve done your homework.

    At home, make sound decisions. Pay close attention to lead times. If your store is set up correctly, there is no room for any additional inventory slots. As inventory turns, new inventory arrives just as the old is sold. Timing is everything, and the key is to buy based on your data.

Finally, hold a meeting with your salespeople. Tell them what you saw. Create excitement about the trip, about what’s going on in the industry and about what they can expect to see soon in the store. Schedule product-knowledge meetings with representatives of any new items and new vendors. Remember, you’re first and foremost a communicator.


Floyd Veal is Senior Retail Consultant at JRM Sales and Marketing Inc., a retail consulting firm based in Kennesaw, GA. Prior to joining JRM, Veal spent 35 years with Haverty Furniture Cos. Inc.

Market Madness No More

Floyd Veal’s three steps for getting the most out of any market:

• Prior to market:

Set up a binder with alphabetized tabs. Gather inventory reports and meet with your staff.

• At market:

Get plenty of rest each night. Focus on meeting people. Take photos. Save decisions for when you get home.

• When it’s over:

Buy based on data. Meet with your staff. Create a buzz for the items soon to appear in the store.

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