Choosing The Right Products For Your Shop
How do you determine the type, quality, and price level of the merchandise you buy for your store? You could consult market research studies, surveys, and consultants’ findings and observations, but what you really need to consider is What do you like? Do you like expensive, moderate, or lower-priced merchandise? Are you conservative or a little offbeat? Do you want to carry what is hot — the latest fad — or do you like more-traditional things? Do you want to be a high-volume business, or do you want to have a small store so that you can spend time caring for every customer?
Before you can choose the type, price, and quality level of the merchandise for your store, you have to be certain about who you are and what kind of store you want yours to be.
Your job will be easier if you sell merchandise that you really believe in and that matches your style and personality type. However, you also have to think about what kinds of items your customers will like. Retailers often face a dilemma: You go into business because you want to carry a certain type of merchandise; you like it and you want to carry it, but what happens if your customers don’t like it? You have a few choices:
You can wait for new customers.
You can try to reeducate your customers — convince them to like the merchandise.
You can abandon the merchandise you like and sell what your customers like.
You can provide a combination of merchandise.
You not only have to decide what merchandise to carry, but you also need to know where to find it, who to buy it from, and how it fits into your overall sales and pricing strategy. The information in this chapter helps you master each of these areas.
Doing Your Homework
“The biggest mistake a retailer makes today is not shopping other stores and manufacturers. Shopping is to the retailer what research is to the lawyer. How is the retailer going to know what he likes until he sees what is around?”
Shopping helps you form opinions. If you see something you like but it is car- ried only in discount or off-price stores and you want to open a better-priced, high-service store, you better think twice — avoid the cheap stuff. The oppo- site is true as well. You don’t want to put high-end merchandise that requires delicate treatment in a self-service, off-price store.
Be sure to shop as many manufacturers and resources as possible. New retail- ers often tell me that they have a friend who knows someone who can get them all the merchandise they need. That scares me because, especially at the begin- ning, you need to know who is selling what and who is right for you. Not every manufacturer or distributor is right for everybody. So how do you know what merchandise is right for you? Ask yourself the following questions before buying anything:
What other stores in your area carry what you want to carry?
How successful are those stores? Are they growing and expanding?
What stores would you most like to be? Who would you model?
What kinds of merchandise do those stores carry? What are the names of the lines? Are these same products available online?
Where are those stores located? Are they in downtowns or malls, or are they freestanding stores? Are the areas similar to yours?
What is their business model? How do they do business? Do they discount?
What type of socioeconomic areas are these stores in? Are the residents sophisticated and well educated, or less educated?
What is the demographic and lifestyle information of people in your area? Are they “earthy crunchy” or slick and hip? Modern or traditional?
Are the customers at the stores you admire similar to the customers in your area?
If you’re wondering why I’m talking about everything but merchandise — location, customer types, and retail models — the reason is as basic as business itself, and it’s all interwoven. To be a successful retailer, you have to identify a customer or market need and then carry the merchandise that fills the need. Now let's dive into finding the merchandise.