Three Takeaways from our Trip to Boutique Summit 2022
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By Audrey Taylor and Angel Kamine
Last month we had the pleasure of attending the fifth annual Boutique Summit in Dallas, TX. The Boutique Hub is an amazing community dedicated to the boutique retail industry. Each year they host a conference where retailers, thought leaders, and industry resources join forces for two full days of valuable education and networking.
OFFPRICE has partnered with The Boutique Hub, for many years now, with the goal of helping small business owners maximize open-to-buy dollars and find low-risk wholesale opportunities for their stores. To get the scoop on the current state of the Boutique Industry, a couple of our OFFPRICE team members flew down to Dallas to attend this year's Boutique Summit.
From keynote speakers to break-out sessions, the event was jam-packed with expert knowledge and inspiring insight. While it would be impossible to recap all the amazing tips and tricks we learned, here are three takeaways we can’t resist sharing:
- "Know where the money is hiding”
Ashley Alderson kicked off the event with a discussion about the essential building blocks of a successful business. Product was one of the most important blocks, which consists of three parts: accounting, inventory planning, and profit. “Know where the money is hiding” was a theme that stuck with us throughout many of the sessions.
Long gone are the days of buying for two seasons. Today’s consumers expect to see a constant flow of new arrivals - But how does a small business owner budget for this type of demand, and how do they manage a year-round buying cycle? Retailers need to be able to pivot mid-season to fill unexpected inventory gaps or supply the latest trends. They also need to have a clear view of their inventory investments as well as opportunities to increase margins.
Tools such as the FAVES app are making it easier for buyers to make quick data-driven decisions about their inventory. "We help retailers plan and track their orders, so they always know where their dollars and opportunities are hiding. FAVES provides a visual overview and a real-time budget showing each order's cost and expected return, as well as a monthly breakdown of orders placed and received by category" explains Ulla Hald, Founder & CEO of FAVES. During the summit, Hald showcased the gamechanging tools and insightful reporting available to fashion buyers using the app.
Not only do merchants need access to this type of data in their stores, but it should also be utilized to make smart purchasing decisions at markets. By enabling buyers to compare orders from vendors and visualize the margins on the spot, boutiques can increase buying power and maximize their open-to-buy dollars year-round.
- Dedicate 10%-15% of your purchasing power to opportunistic buys
As Paul Erickson from Management One said, “Good retailers have to be able to exploit opportunities and understand that retail is about risk... but minimizing risk is absolutely everything.” To keep up with fast-fashion trends and see-now-buy-now behavior, retail buyers should develop a network of vendors with quick turnaround on quality products that pose low-risk to their bottom line. The off-price sector was built on this mentality, and with consumer trends shifting faster than ever before, traditional retailers of all sizes are adopting similar strategies. Erickson and other experts at the summit even suggested that boutique owners should save 10%-15% of their inventory budget for opportunistic buys such as immediate goods, testing new vendors or categories, and promotional offers. In fact, off-price merchants have been using this strategy for decades with great success!
We recently spoke with Stanley Lorman of DM Merchandising, who is an OFFPRICE vendor that focuses on unique merchandising strategies. His company offers impulse items that cross between apparel and gift, which he says allows any kind of store to find something that speaks to their customers' lifestyle, whether it’s an ice cream shop, hardware store, or a boutique. They also specialize in creating displays that help the stores retail the product, which the company sees as investing WITH the stores to achieve their merchandising goals. Finding vendors with unique specialties such as DM Merchandising can help boutiques evolve into different categories and test new strategies.
- Make data-driven decisions
In the fashion business, it is easy to get caught up in the latest trends. Making people feel beautiful and glamorous is a key part of a boutique owners' job. However, the art of retail is being able to deliver inspiring products and experiences that complement your customers' lifestyle AND fit within their budget. Savvy store owners must find a balance between high dollar investment pieces, top selling core products, basics and essentials, and impulse buys. Finding this balance will ultimately depend on knowing your customer, inside and out.
Boutique owners need to constantly put themselves in their customer’s shoes. This is especially true when going to wholesale markets. Sara Burks, Director of Education at Boutique Hub, emphasized in the “Market Maximization” session, buyers cannot simply buy products that fit their own taste and preferences. Additionally, when considering purchases, buyers should first ask themselves “what would my customer pay for this”, rather than asking the vendor “what is the wholesale cost?” If you are diligently tracking what you’re ordering vs. what you’re selling in your store, then the answer will come easy. Making data-driven decisions will enable you to give your customers exactly what they want, at the right price for YOU and them.
As advocates for our own community of retailers and wholesale vendors, the Boutique Summit gave us insight into what small businesses are dealing with in the current economy, and how they are moving forward as an industry. Many of the themes discussed during the Boutique Summit resonated deeply with our values at OFFPRICE. We understand that in order to meet today’s consumer demands, small businesses need to find opportunities that allow them to evolve without sacrificing their budget. At the OFFPRICE Show, buyers can connect with vendors who offer a variety of ways to enhance your merchandising strategies, such as immediate goods, private label, brand name closeouts, cash & carry, and more. Join us February 11-14, 2023, during Las Vegas Fashion Week and discover new ways to grow your business!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Angel Kamine is the Sales Director at OFFPRICE, working directly with wholesale vendors to enhance their market presense and conenct with qualified retail buyers. She has been with OFFPRICE since 2006 and has played a siginificant role introducing new retailers and vendors to the show.
Audrey Taylor is the Global Retail Business Manager at OFFPRICE, serving as a resource for retail buyers looking to make valuable connections with wholesale partners. Audrey joined the OFFPRICE team in 2019 bringing 8+ years of experience in the retail and wholesale apparel industry.
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