14 August 2020

Finding quality when buying online

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By Patrice Bouchard
A theme that has been constant in 2020 is adaptability, and how well (or not!) the retail landscape has been able to adjust to new conditions. This has never been more true than when it comes to the job of being a retail buyer. Buyers typically travel to trade shows all over the country multiple times during the year, looking to bring new and exciting lines into the store and see the latest and greatest from brands your customers have come to love and trust. So, how are you supposed to do that when travel bans are in place and most trade shows have been cancelled in person for 2020? Well just like everything else, we adapt. 
The trade show industry has also had to adjust due to COVID-19, and the OFFPRICE Show has decided to go virtual for 2020. Buyers who are used to seeing and feeling the merchandise they purchase are now faced with the task of finding quality merchandise when buying online. So how do we do that and still stock the store with quality products we stand behind? The easy starting point is going to the vendors you have worked with in the past. Many exhibitors that you have worked with in the past can help you build collections based on your previous buys. Above all else, they want to retain your relationship and won’t steer you wrong. 
Besides leaning on your go-to sellers, you should also take advantage of online trade shows and tools being offered. At OFFPRICE, we’re now offering a new virtual platform and virtual market weeks through OFFPRICE Online. Retailers can easily book appointments and video conferences so they can connect with new exhibitors, receive more details on the garment, or even get a better view of the product through video. 
A common question is: in the digital world, how do you trust the quality of the unknown? We recommend doing your homework and using the resources provided by the event.  At OFFPRICE Online, we have two market weeks September 1-September 3, and October 13-15, 2020. Look at those markets the same way you would look at traveling to a show. Check out the digital show guide ahead-of-time and have a game plan. Do an internet search of brands your interested in, check out reviews, take notes and set up appointments. 
Appointments can be booked prior to the show, which helps plan your time during the virtual market so your time is not wasted. Make new connections through the video conferencing and build relationships with exhibitors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the garment and it’s fabric make up, which can help you know how it will feel and fit.  Most exhibitors are willing to work with you because they are also adapting to a new way of selling. OFFPRICE Online’s two virtual markets are an advantage for retailers because you can buy into a brand staying within your open-to-buy dollars, and if it sells come back for more in October. 
The bottom line: you can still find quality, fashionable merchandise online by being adaptable and using the tools offered by trade shows so you can continue building relationships with exhibitors. 


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