It very much depends on your offer (price, profile, style etc) but today’s trading climate means customers are less willing to buy early into collections and more have adopted a buy-now/wear-now philosophy. Whereas two years ago most retailers would invest more in the early phases (one and two), nowadays we’re seeing a lot more savvy retailers spreading their buying risk and buying into phase two and three. Look at your pattern of sales for the latest season and analayse how your customers were spending their money. This pattern is what you need to apply to your own buying process now. We would advise you to buy into strong new colour stories early in the season to give your store a refreshed feel and give those customers who are buying early a new fashion story to tap into. We don’t think fashion (i.e. silhouette, key shapes, detail etc) is moving as fast at the moment as it did a few seasons ago so colour and fabrication are becoming even more important to ring the changes.
It is an excellent idea to buy across the four main delivery windows offered by most suppliers and it is a great way to increase newness into your store (s) throughout the year. Seasonal budgeting varies depending on many factors including the type of business, regional seasonality and the brands stocked but in general my top three tips would be 1) Check out your annual current turnover and your customers spending patterns to give you a guideline of opportunity windows for earlier collections 2) Talk to the brands you want to work with – they will be happy to give you a steer on their own seasonal phasing and financial targeting 3) Allow for a degree of financial flexibility in the first year to allow you, and your customers, to learn about this change to your business.