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Drapers Next Generation: Buying and merchandising must be reactive

Buying and merchandising strategies should be focused on reacting to of-the-moment trends rather than relying on sales data from previous seasons or seasonal buying.

This was the overriding message from a panel of leading buyers and merchandisers speaking at Drapers Next Generation at 30 Euston Square in London this morning, including Shop Direct’s senior fashion merchandiser Gavin Williams and senior buyer Victoria Nelson, and Topman’s senior buyer – brands and concessions Laura Southern and established buyer – brands and concessions Natalie Cowan.

“The way we buy has changed. We used to buy four times a year and now we drop something every day,” said Nelson.

Cowan agreed, adding that shoppers are now continually searching for something new. “You have to constantly look for that new thing.” She added that for merchandisers, it is now also about looking at things with “fresh eyes”.

Southern agreed. “It not about looking back [at what has sold]. I have been to meetings where they have said ‘but it didn’t work two seasons ago’, but it might now. So there is the battle.”

Williams added that core merchandising skills and the “right time, right product” approach hasn’t changed, but agreed that the speed of product turnaround has.

The panel also said that retailers must offer a concise edit, rather than overwhelming the consumer. “We have around 200 brands in clothing and footwear but we are constantly revolving it depending on what the customer wants. One of the perceptions of online is that there is infinite space, but it becomes overbearing if you have hundreds of black trousers, for example,” said Williams.

Southern agreed, adding that men have caught up with women in terms of shopping, but not in regards to patience. “In terms of the male consumer, they need to be able to buy a product quickly or they go elsewhere. You need to get them in the first two to three pages.”

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