Most retailers put a lot of emphasis on selling, but the very best ones also take the time and invest their energy to do a better job of buying. Trust this old retailer that there’s a lot of excitement to be had in buying "right"... A-n-d here's how!
Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90
Most of the lovely people playing the game of furniture retailing think that the
name of that game is selling. If you think so, too, then you're wrong, too.
That’s because the name of the game in retailing is buying:
- Finding and buying the things that no one or very few stores have on their floors;
- Finding furnishings that everyone else sells, but buying and selling them at a much better price;
- Finding attractive substitutes for the items that everyone else sells, buying them and either selling them at a better price or marketing them as a better product for a competitive price.
So how do you buy better and smarter? Grandpa Mike-e-e has learned a few things over the years about this topic.
I’ve found that small retailers are prone to one of two, or two of two mistakes in their buying adventures. First, they don’t take full advantage of all the free industry information out there on the internet through news magazines of the type Furniture World and other trade papers offer. That's a big boo-boo because they miss a lot of information on what other industry players are doing, on new products, and industry-wise happenings. Knowledge is power.
And second, they don’t make the best use of trade shows. It’s tough to get out of the store, but by attending more shows such as High Point, Las Vegas, Toronto, The KEM shows, NIWA, Keystone, Tupelo, Ohio Hardwood Furniture Market, imm Cologne, Shanghai, CIFF, MIFF, TIFF, the Mexico International Furniture Market , Movelsul Brasil, Atlanta, IFFS and more… well maybe not more… you can get a definite competitive advantage.
That’s if, and only if, you get out of your comfort zone while you are there, and don’t see the same people over and over -- and have the same conversations over and over -- with existing suppliers -- about the same products -- over and over again. Instead, get out and find out what's new in the marketplace, New products, new categories, new ideas -- and while you are at it, drop in on some seminars of the type offered in High Point and Las Vegas at the NHFA and WHFA Resource Centers. I hear that they were full to busting at the most recent Vegas show!
A-n-d here is something else you should do at the shows to help you buy better. You should seek out and speak with other retailers. When you stop for a sandwich or a bottle of pop in the hallways of building “B” or on the 11th floor of IHFC, snuggle up to other retailers and try to peek at their ID badges and then look for an opening to engage them in trade talk. You will be surprised by what points of business will flop into your lap and how similar your experiences will be. What lines are selling well? What new categories of merchandise are going gangbusters? What suppliers are giving the best deals?
Most retailers put a lot of emphasis on selling, but the very best ones also take the time and invest their energy to do a better job of buying. Trust this old retailer that there’s a lot of excitement to be had in buying "right". A-n-d every time you buy you've got to be saying to yourself, "Betcha I can sell this stuff." And when you do-wow! - you're ten feet tall and raring to go to the next buying challenge.
Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90
Questions? Comments? e-mail Grandpa Mike-e-e! at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90) Columnist, Retailer, Author, Composer-Lyricist, Playwright.
- Emigrated to U.S. with parents at age 3; Graduated high school at 16; Managed a retail/manufacturer at 18.
- Joined Tootsie Rolls/Sweets Corp. of America at 19 as Assistant to V.P. Purchasing.
- Joined US Army Signal Corp-Communications; Selected for (ASTP) Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers U. Qualified for Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.
- Married his sweetheart, Anita, and gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts… after 74 years.
- Rejoined Tootsie Rolls Corp as Director of Personnel at 24 (500 employees).
- Joined widowed sister, as President of retail/manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing and custom designing over 20,000 children's rooms.
- Graduated Hofstra U (evenings) in 1968 at age 47... before all his three kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren graduated with their degrees.
- Answered 30 day, temporary columnist advertisement by Reed Business Newspapers (Furniture Today) and stayed on for 27 years. Columns were sold from Bangladesh to Belgium to Beijing to Brooklyn. Admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the Furniture Industry." Visited with 3rd/4th generation retail owners throughout the US. Retired from retail after 55 years of management.
- At age 72: Published his first hardcover book: "Where's The Green Pea?" with vegetable characters in color, original music and lyrics on cassette. Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with Grandma Anita, his partner.
- At age 76: Published hardcover book/ with color: "Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom That Was All My Own" presented at middle schools with tech info for parents planning a student bedroom. Included outlines for teachers and students in Home Sciences.
- At age 80: Published hardcover book with color of unique art: "Tzedakah Of Caring and Sharing". A classic original with music for high school chorales. Ossining HS drama staged it and lona College sponsored a presentation as "American Fruit Salad".
- At age 88: Published on-line book "Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive and L-o-v-e it" for college students, with versions for industry, business schools and entrepreneurs. Includes section for "Wise Women Who Love A Career Challenge", business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experience and business thinking .
- Invited to address retail salespersons, customers, Furniture Designer Associates ; I.H.F.R.A. sales associations, High Point U. students and F.I.T. retailer sessions.
- At Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90: Writes a weekly column for entrepreneurs, sales representatives and furniture management personnel in Furniture World - a trade publication for 140 years.
- Grandpa can't play an instrument nor read music. But you can see and hear his You Tube music video staring him with his granddaughter Becca at: http://bitly.coni/qALkrX.
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