Tag Archives: Buying

Designer Tip – Getting the contacts you need

Starting out on your own can be an extremely daunting exercise. Top of the list of all things scary has got to be all the people that you know you need to know, but just don’t know: those elusive contacts that can make your business. The buyers of department stores, planners, merchandising, suppliers, and all the other players in the fashion business value chain.

To help finding these people, and importantly, securing their contact details I was told of a super simple and effective trick. Nothing unlawful, just playing the game… (note that this technique can work wonders outside of fashion). It may not always work and it has downfalls, but if you’re being blocked in an organisation it might just be worth a try.

Step 1: Know who you want

Find the company you need an in with. Maybe it is a supplier or large department store in a target market or city.

Look on their website, or online directory for the contact phone number of their HQ.

You want the number that puts you through to reception or equivalent.

Step 2: Call the HQ of above company and ask for the name of the person/ role you are targeting 

a) Call the reception at HQ.

b) Say who you are and where you are calling from.

c) Ask one question and one question only. “What is the name of the [buyer, merchandiser, accounts person etc…]?”

d) Write the name down and thank reception for their time.

 

Why: Reception is often trained to filter calls. They are gatekeepers. If you can’t prove you are someone they won’t let you through. But in the vast majority of case they will give you a name as this does not affect their role requirements.

Step 3: Wait a full day then call back

a) Wait a full day before calling back.

b) Again call HQ (you don’t have the direct contact yet) and tell the receptionist that you were “just on the phone with [Mr/Mrs Buyer, merchandiser, accounts etc…] and the call cut-out. The number didn’t come up on your phone. It was an urgent call and you need to call them back.” you can make up your own story, but you get the point.

c) Again in the vast majority of cases this is enough to clear the requirements of the gatekeeper and either give you the number/ email or put you through to the person. If possible try to avoid being put through. It could backfire if reception puts you through and tells your contact that you were just on the phone to them and you were not. This is a risk of this technique.

d) Call or email the person you need directly. Happy times.

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History: GAP – an icon in crisis

The following is an excerpt from John M. Gallaugher’s expose of Zara’s Fast Fashion and Savvy Systems.

Most fashion retailers place orders for a seasonal collection months before these lines make an appearance in stores. While overseas contract manufacturers may require hefty lead-times, trying to guess what customers want months in advance is a tricky business. In retail in general and fashion in particular, there’s a saying: inventory = death. Have too much unwanted product on hand and you’ll be forced to mark down or write off items, killing profits. For years, Gap sold most of what it carried in stores. It was led by a man with a radar-right sense of style. Micky Drexler, the iconic CEO who helped turn Gap’s button down shirts and khakis into America’s uniform. Drexler’s team had spot-on tastes throughout the 90s, but when sales declined in the early part of this decade, Drexler was left guessing on ways to revitalize the brand and he guessed wrong – disastrously wrong. Chasing the youth market, Drexler filled Gap stores with miniskirts, low-rise jeans, and even a much-ridiculed line of purple leather pants6. The throngs of teenagers he sought to attract never showed up, and the shift in offerings sent Gap’s mainstay customers to retailers that easily copied the styles that Gap made classic.

The inventory hot potato Drexler left crushed the firm. Gap’s same-store sales declined for 29 months straight. Profits vanished. Gap founder and Chairman Dan Fisher lamented “It took us 30 years to get to $1 billion in profits and two years to get to nothing” 7. The firm’s debt was downgraded to junk status. Drexler was out and for its new head, the board chose Paul Pressler, a Disney executive who ran theme parks and helped rescue the firm’s once ailing retail effort.

Pressler shut down hundreds of stores, but the hemorrhaging continued, largely due to bad bets on colors and styles8. During one holiday season, Gap’s clothes were deemed so off-target that the firm scrapped its advertising campaign and wrote off much of the inventory. The firm’s model of drawing customers in via big-budget television promotion had collapsed. Pressler’s tenure saw same store sales decline in 18 of 24 months. A Fortune article on Pressler’s leadership was titled “Fashion Victim”, BusinessWeek described his time as CEO as a “Total System Failure”, and Wall Street began referring to him as DMW for Dead Man Walking. In January 2007, Pressler resigned, with Gap hoping its third Chief Executive of the decade could right the ailing giant.

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