Monday, 29 August 2016

Mind of the Fashion Buyer

Fashion and Jewellery Exchange
The Mind of the Buyer
Credit: Debra Hepburn featured in You magazine

Debra Hepburn, founder of Young British Designers gave a masterclass of advice on impressing fashion and jewellery buyers to new fashion start-ups at Enterprise Nation's Fashion and Jewellery Exchange in Birmingham.

Young British Designers is the only retailer dedicated to new designers and stock an incredibly unique range of fashion and accessories. Debra mentioned that she is especially interested in applications from new jewellery designers.

Key Point: Buyers are super busy and look for reasons to discard people.
It takes a leap of faith for buyers to stock new designers and trends so you must be fully prepared when you approach them for an order.

Debra’s 6 Ways to a Buyer’s Mind
Credit:RBH Agency

1) The Perfect Brand Name
Your brand name must be memorable, pronounceable, easy to spell and future-proof. It may not be suitable to just use your own name for a label as it may not evoke the image you want to project. It may be too plain and simple.

2) Who are you?
Can you describe your brand in 7 seconds?
You should be able to clearly, concisely, and memorably describe your brand. Buyers receive 15 to 20 approaches a day so you must stand out with your first impression.

Some good branding examples are:
Renli Su: ‘Explores time and memory’
Aries: ‘Streetwear Provocateurs’

Credit:RBH Agency

3) Who is the buyer?
Do your homework on the buyer and company that you are approaching. Find out their name and job title. Do not send post or emails addressed ‘FAO The Buyer’

4) Who are we?
Do you have a stockist strategy of which stores are the most suitable to approach?
What stores fit your brand profile? Have you visited them? What space do they have? Do you complement their other brands? Do not appear to be desperate to be stocked when meeting buyers. Use the #designers on twitter to find potential leads.

5) Looks aren’t everything
Once you have the designs finalised you will then need to back up your creativity with the organisation of your business to match.
Have a great lookbook with no weak images or designs included.
Line sheet pricing: this is all the technical details a buyer needs to know about placing an order. Link it to your lookbook. You need to describe the fit, available sizes, delivery deadlines, minimum order quantities and country of origin.

6) Retail is all in the detail
You must link up and deliver on all the steps in selling to a stockist. Orders need to flow smoothly from the line sheet to production to retail. Sometimes production can go wrong so you must keep your buyers fully informed of any issues or potential delays.
This is your brand, be kind to it and give time to it.


You don’t have to keep reinventing your brand and offering every few months. Young British Designers prefer one main collection to four seasonal ones.

Photography credit: Rebecca Chivers

Close-up product images: Dan Martin, Enterprise

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Fashion and Jewellery Exchange Birmingham

Fashion and Jewellery Exchange
by Enterprise Nation
In May we attended a wonderful fashion and jewellery exchange event hosted by Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones and West Midlands Enterprise Champion Debbie Assinder. The event brought together top buyers from retail giants such as Selfridges, John Lewis, Net-A-Porter and River Island to give us first class tips on how to attract a buyer's attention and get your product stocked in these prestigious stores.

How To Sell To Selfridges
Eleanor Robinson, head of accessories buying provided wonderful advice and excellent tips on how Selfridges find new brands and the key factors that help them decide whether to stock the brand and place an order.

Selfridges Overview
The Selfridges group has sales of over £500m with own-bought stock accounting for £200m of selling. All products have to be right for the Selfridges brand and extremely well made. Eleanor mentioned that there is a trend of customers veering away from made in China goods. 

Credit: RBH Agency 

Selfridges customers are interested in the story behind brands and care that goods are ethically and sustainably produced. Before approaching Selfridges, you should research their current brands and make sure your brand fits in with their range and values. 

Go for The Indirect Approach to Get Spotted
Most brands are found in boutiques, trade shows and showrooms rather than through contacting a buyer. You can still directly contact buyers with a lookbook and through email but responses are rare. If you do send in a lookbook, Eleanor emphasised that there is no need to also send in expensive samples to impress and you may be wasting your money if you do so. A simple cover note introducing your brand will suffice.

Key Places Selfridges Discover New Labels

Trade Shows, Showrooms and Boutiques
To source many of their goods Selfridges visit large trade shows in Paris and Milan such as the Tranoi exhibition for luxury retailers. These are highly competitive to be selected to exhibit at and very expensive to be part of. On a smaller scale, multi-brand showrooms are often visited by buyers looking for fresh talent as are the best boutiques.
Credit: Jennifer Hamley

Influencers and Peers
Buyers are most influenced by their peers, what's in the press and if bloggers are talking about and wearing new brands. If they spot a fellow buyer or PR employees wearing a new brand it is a key endorsement and the starting point of wanting to know more about a brand and its potential as a Selfridges brand.

Once a potential brand is spotted they may watch its progress for a couple of seasons before considering stocking the label. This gives businesses a chance to grow and get the correct systems in place such as manufacturing to ensure they are organised and capable of supplying orders on time and to high quality controls. For this reason, it may be better for brands to start with being stocked in small boutiques before chasing big orders.

Brand Marketing Tips
Key question buyers from Selfridges will ask from new suppliers is:
‘What is unique about your brand?’

They recommend using social media to tell your brand story in more detail rather than relying on a catalogue for example.

You will need to use great photos tell your story and your website must be totally on-point to represent your brand. Using Instagram is important for fashion brands to attract attention. Having a large number of followers is not essential if the key influencers that do follow the brand introduce their large following to the brand and wear the clothes in their posts.

When to Approach
The busiest period for buyers ties in with the major fashion seasons and is from January to March and September to October. Some business is also done in June and July. You may have a better chance of a positive response if you approach buyers in quieter periods. Orders are placed in line with the seasons with the influence of pre-collections becoming more important in recent years.

Once in Store
With online shopping becoming more important, it takes more effort to get customers into store. Selfridges approaches this by aiming to make the shopping experience more personalised with a sense of theatre and entertainment. They want to ‘surprise, amuse, amaze’. In-store displays can use demonstrations and videos to bring their brands to life.
Brand exclusivity is always wanted by Selfridges and they will promote a brand more if a competitor does not also stock it.

Events are anchored around key trading periods i.e. Christmas and the aim is to also tie-in with special occasions. The ‘Live and Loud’ Selfridges campaign in Birmingham was their response to the dramatically changing retail environment in Birmingham with the opening of Grand Central Station, John Lewis and the expansion of The Mailbox.

The campaign celebrated the very best of Birmingham art, fashion, beauty, music and food. Exciting events included an in-store exhibition space, Michelin-starred dining experiences, Bollywood cinema screenings and live music. A collaboration with Birmingham City University involved an in-store catwalk, a showcase of student graduate final projects and flash mob performances on all floors.

Parameters of Success
Selfridges will look for a margin of at least 2.5 times your trade price. So a £100 trade price handbag will retail at £250. They may start with a small order to begin with and you will need to plan how quickly you can replenish stock if all goes well.

If sales are slow, you will need to reassess your offer and consider more marketing, social media promotion, staff training and promotions. You may be faced with having to sell products at a heavy discount or buying back your stock. You can also try a pop-up stand and these can last anything from a weekend to 6 weeks.


Emma Jone's Enterprise Nation is brilliant at helping small businesses with advice and support to help your business grow. Their events are full of great tips and inspirational speakers. Rachel Whitehead with Emma above attended the event to get advice for her jewellery business and was lucky enough to win a free trip to Berlin on the Go Global Berlin visit.

Photography credit: Rebecca Chivers Media
Close-up product images: Dan Martin, Enterprise Nation

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