At Gerry Weber we have just launched our third selling programme for spring 09, meeting customers from independents through to department stores.
Despite anxiety about the credit crunch, the atmosphere in our showroom has been upbeat and I have been inspired to hear from many of our customers about the approaches they are adopting for doing business and for the challenges that lie ahead.
But I have been saddened by the acceptance by some customers of the current trading conditions and the inability of the management teams at some firms to focus on a clear way forward. This negative attitude is passed on to staff and customers.
We can debate who to blame for a lack of investment, but I blame the financial managers who have little understanding of product and people. They have no idea how their head office decisions impact at a local level. Businesses must be proactive not reactive.
We have to know what our customers want and deliver this to them. Buyers need to be allowed to take responsibility for their purchases. They must be given the resources to sell what they buy and to receive accurate feedback.
It amazes me how many retailers are not computerised and only know what is selling from manual stock checks. Without reliable shop floor intelligence, how are they to respond?
A consequence of this downturn is that there will be fewer customers for wholesale brands to sell to, and less brands for retailers to buy from. We all have to focus and drive our businesses hard, but don’t sacrifice the benefits of investing for the long term for a short-term fix.
Howard Ross is UK and Republic of Ireland manager at womenswear brand Gerry Weber