Fashion buyers make selection decisions for their product range after analyzing data from company sources, customer feedback and market trends.
The main purpose of analysing sales data from the previous seasons’ performance is to compare the actual numbers to those that were planned and expected. This allows you as a buyer to understand any variations from your initial plan which will help you to make better informed decisions about your future buying strategy.
Below are some key questions to ask and evaluate when reviewing your sales both in season and at the end of the season:
Having the right product in the right place at the right time etc… are the core principles behind a successful seasonal campaign but sometime despite your best efforts the sales do not materialise as planned. It’s important to understand why certain items didn’t sell and why other items flew off the shelves ! A visit to the shop floor will answer a lot of questions
- Were the final products delivered into stores as planned in terms of look, shape, quality, fabric and hand-feel ?
- Were the trends which were anticipated in line with what actually materialised?
- Was there a late season trend that was missed ?
- What actions need to be taken or considered when predicting the future season’s trends?
- Did the strategy set for the category /dept / brand deliver the envisaged objectives ?
- What should be continued or done differently for the new season?
Customers and Competitors
The lead time between product concept and delivery to stores gives time to allow your competitors the opportunity to follow similar trends. It is as important to keep an eye in-season on what your competitors are offering as it is pre-season. Maybe they have executed the new trends in a better way or are offering more competitive pricing or have created a more inviting store environment…
- Did your strategy exceed customer expectations?
- What changes or additional resources do you need to put in place for next season?
- Did any competitor initiatives impact the business targets?
- Was any action taken to counteract the competition?
- What other in season actions were taken to align with the market place activities?
Key performance Indicators
Key performance indicators are only useful in a business if they are relevant and used correctly. The purpose is to measure specific metrics to gauge how well your business or specific area of the business is performing. With number this can be pretty black and white. From retail operations and from central buying these are monitored and reviewed continuously.
- Did you achieve the planned sales targets, margins, stock levels, gross and net profits or were they unrealistic to begin with ?
- Which processes need to be reviewed to achieve better results next season?
- Was the product assortment well balanced ?
- Did the range cater to the target customer segments effectively?
- Were the new product innovations and developments well received?
- Were seasonal sales promotions implemented successfully ?
- What colours & sizes actually sold in comparison to the quantities bought ?
- What changes if any should be made to the assortment mix?
Working in partnership with your suppliers is in everyone’s best interest for the business to succeed. When dealing with multiple vendors across many time zones, with cultural differences and where English is not everyone’s first language can pose many challenges.
Sometime despite best efforts goods are late and missing a launch date results in loos of sales and profits for the business. It is not always 100% the fault of the supplier so it is important to manage the critical path effectively to avoid problems and delays.
- Did the suppliers deliver the right products and quantities as ordered and scheduled?
- Did your suppliers meet or exceed business expectations in terms of innovation, communications, quality and on time delivery?
- Are there suppliers who should be considered for the next season?
Seeing your products reach stores and the subsequent sales after many weeks and months of development is the validation required that your buying strategy was right for your business.
- Were stores able to understand the structure of the ranges and easily display them to emphasize the thinking of the buying team?
- What improvements to guidelines can be made to assist them?
- Was the feedback received from stores valuable?
- What processes can be implemented to improve the quality of feedback?
In conclusion, whatever methods or questions you use to understand your sales data should be consistent. It is important that you make like with like comparisons. Each time you review the sales information you will get a more accurate reading and understanding of your business category. No buyer gets it right 100% of the time but it is critical to understand where things didn’t work out as planned. In some cases the answers can be very simple. It can be down to timing – too early or too late or, the products really did not fit with your market position and customer expectations. Personally when planning a range I want customers to see the full range and want to buy ALL of it rather than see a range where only one item stands out !!
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