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Shoppers and stock in harmony at last

Louise Shiangkwang

You would have never heard me cheer for winter before becoming a retailer, but seeing your customers browsing your new autumn collections on their way back from the beach is somewhat disheartening.

You would have never heard me cheer for winter before becoming a retailer, but seeing your customers browsing your new autumn collections on their way back from the beach is somewhat disheartening.

Buying my first autumn collection eight months ago, I had confidence in what I was choosing, but had reservations about who was going to start buying the chunky knits in September.

“Yes,” cry the sales reps, “you start to put out new stock in July and August and it sells”…”this is the main collection which you really need to buy into”…”you’d be surprised how quickly it will go”. I know from working as a rep myself that it’s good to pick their brains for advice about what is selling well, and the clichés were abundant and persuasive.

But the sales need to live up to the hype and I need to manage my cash flow, so I should have stuck with my instincts.

Luckily, I held an autumn 10 preview day where I opened till 8pm and offered customers 10% off all new stock to get them in and spending. I spent a long time the night before the event changing all the stock around and displaying the more wintery collections - but it was still the jerseywear and jeans that sold through, not jumper dresses or chunky knits.

But now, with the nights drawing in and the clocks soon to change, I’ve noticed my customers are finally coming into buy rather than just browse.

So, big lesson number two in my new life as a retailer - don’t overspend on forward buying. Keep it light for first drop and hold some budget back. In-season buying is a great tool for a small indie like me. Yes, it’s good to have some new styles in for August, but not boxes of knitwear that clog up my stockroom and my cashflow.

Louise Shiangkwang is the owner of new womenswear boutique Me Me in Hove, East Sussex

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