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Know your customer, know your market

As the new selling season starts, most suppliers are finalising their plans to tempt new and existing buyers into placing orders with their brands rather than the competition.

The winners will be those that explicitly understand not just what the retail buyer wants but also the consumer. Sounds obvious, but too often companies are unprepared on both counts. Knowledge is key.

For many suppliers, the tough domestic market, coupled with a more favourable exchange rate, has placed exports higher up the sales agenda, so there is increasing demand for first-hand information about the opportunities and pitfalls in a particular country.

To help businesses, we have expanded our series of ‘Selling to…’ seminars and will be looking at Japan, the US and China in the next six months. Our speakers are always successful traders in these countries. Questions from attendees indicate even those who are trading in a specific country want to know how to do it better.

However, a pro-active sales and marketing programme is just one side of the coin: delivering a collection that meets buyers’ expectations in terms of price and quality is the other. And these days being flexible is the name of the game as most buyers are booking smaller orders, more frequently.

The UK Fashion and Textile Association, in conjunction with Industry Forum, will also be delivering a series of seminars and workshops covering topics such as sourcing, production, negotiation, as well as insight into the new consumer. Asda chief executive Andy Bond recently said “customers are shaping businesses rather than businesses shaping customers” - so keeping up-to-date on consumer thinking, as well as knowing what your buyers have in mind, has to be paramount.

Peter Lucas is chairman of the UK Fashion and Textile Association

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