27 May 2020

Now is the time to mix online and at-market buying

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by Mikaela Kornowski
With the rise of COVID-19, many retailers have had to switch up their business strategies—and also their buying habits. “What’s always worked” may no longer have the same success, as many shoppers have been forced to change their usual buying patterns to work around the virus.
At the OFFPRICE Show, we’re reaching out to buyers throughout the year, checking in on their business and helping to connect them with the right exhibitors. What we’ve noticed is that due to the coronavirus, some retailers will not be traveling to market or buying online. Instead, they’d prefer to stick to their established connections with tried and true sellers. 
In this time of uncertainty, solely working with your usual vendors may feel like a sensible, safe decision. However, it does also mean that you’re missing out on a huge buying opportunity as a retail store owner. “With unprecedented levels of available inventory, immense bargaining power and value-conscious customers potentially hungry for the thrill of something new, all indicators point to the off-price sector as being well-positioned for success,” says Rebecca Goldberg, a contributor for Chain Store Age.
Many retailers are smartly expanding the e-commerce piece of their business, testing curbside pickup and buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS) to meet social distancing shoppers half-way. However, more retailers need to test alternatives to their own current buying methods. Many markets, like the OFFPRICE Show, are offering virtual shopping platforms and digital buying events for their attendees—either as a replacement or as a supplement to the in-person event.
This fall, OFFPRICE will offer a digital platform to coincide with its in-person trade show in Las Vegas. If you have meaningful relationships with apparel, footwear, or accessory exhibitors, we recommend you continue those business relationships. Use those exhibitors for staple products that define your brand from your competitors. But, we also recommend that you use all of these new online opportunities to test new sellers, styles, or even categories. 
With consumers spending more time at home than ever before, should you invest as much spend for your usual summer dress buy? Probably not. Instead, try offering a small assortment of loungewear or sleepwear. While testing the category with your loyal shoppers, you can also test the seller to determine if you’d like to place a larger re-order later.
Your own costs of buying are reduced significantly when sourcing online. You do not need to factor in the costs of travel and housing for at-market events into your product pricing when buying online. Pass those savings onto your customers who may not yet be ready to splurge during this time of economic uncertainty.
Online buying also looks much different than it did even in 2019. Your conception of what online buying means for retailers, might not match the technology that many platforms are now able to offer. Instead of just browsing product images or line sheets, retailers can now view merchandise on video. Through OFFPRICE’s virtual component, retailers will be able to do just this, but also hold private video conferencing sessions directly with the seller. 
For many buyers, face-to-face time is so important for determining if a new seller is a right match for your business. While you might not feel comfortable traveling to touch and feel a product, ask exhibitors if they’re able to show you a product through video conferencing, and ask those important questions in-person rather through phone or email.
More details on the OFFPRICE Show’s virtual platform will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, browse immediate, on-trend merchandise through OFFPRICE365.com, free for all verified retailers. For questions, reach out to Mikaela Kornowski, Marketing Manager of the OFFPRICE Show, at 262-754-6906 or by email.


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