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The Four Questions a Buyer Should Ask

One of my vendors did a survey of retailers to get ideas how they could service us better. I told them that there were really only four questions my buyers ask about a vendor before placing an order.

  • Do I like the product enough to want to sell it?
  • Would my customer buy this product?
  • Will selling this product benefit my company?
  • Do I have the room for this product?

Answer yes to all and we place the order. So a smart vendor would look at those four issues and find ways to make me answer yes.

Do I Like the Product?
Yes, it starts with the product. You better make something good, something smart, something simple that fills a felt need of the customer. If I don’t like it, I can’t sell it. Period.

Would My Customer Buy This Product?
I can love a product, but know deep down in my heart that my customers won’t. In fact, a good buyer knows the difference between what she loves and what customers will love, too. I have turned down some fabulous products because I knew they wouldn’t make sense for my customer base. A smart company understands this and markets their products to the right stores. A really smart company asks why and then decides whether it is worth it to modify their offerings or simply stick to their niche.

Will Selling This Product Benefit My Company?
This is where a number of factors come together.

The first is money. I need to make money. I have major bills to pay including rent, payroll, insurance, utilities and taxes. Are the margins and dollars good enough to help me pay my bills? Will the inventory turn fast enough to make it worth my while? Are the terms such as dating, freight and quantities realistic for my cashflow needs? Is the product one that all my competition is selling at unrealistic prices?

The second is image. Will selling this product enhance the brand or image of my store? Sometimes I am willing to take a financial hit on a line if it has other benefits. For instance, we are an official licensed dealer for Boy Scout and Girl Scout merchandise. Prices are controlled by the scout groups. Margins are paper thin. But the traffic it brings me and the prestige it brings me are worth it. Some products “legitimize” your store, which makes up for the financial shortfalls. Some products enhance the look or prestige or reputation of your store.

Companies that can sell me on the benefits of carrying their product from both a financial and an image basis have a better chance of getting the order.

Do I Have the Room for This Product?
When I speak of “room” I am talking display and storage. I am also talking room in the open-to-buy budget. I am talking room in the cashflow of the store. Companies that help cashflow with extended dating or low minimums will get a stronger look. Companies that have easy-to-display-and-store products will get a stronger look.

If you come to me with your product, you better be able to sell me on all four issues. It only takes one NO on any of those questions for me to walk away.

That’s the advice I gave one vendor who asked. I hope they listen.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, you may forward this to your vendors. Better yet, you might want to forward this to your buyers, too.

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