This
report aims to create an overview of the buying cycle and the five stages that
make up the cycle. This report also contains job roles within retail, the job
requirements, how each job role contributes to each stage of the buying cycle,
as well as how the job roles work together. This report is for my fashion
marketing module of my year one fashion management course.

1. Introduction

 

The buying cycle is the process
that a retail organisation goes through from establishing a consumer’s needs up
until being able to supply the category of consumers with the products they
desire.

 

What
determines the length of the buying cycle?

–  
Level of detail within the garment

–  
Level of quality required to meet
the target market’s needs

–  
Raw material lead time

–  
Fashionability (core/basic)

 

Figure
1

2. The
Stages of the Buying Cycle

 

2.1 Planning

 

Review and analysis of current and previous season’s sales

–      
Buyer’s analyse weekly sales figures to be aware of how a garment
range is performing and the merchandisers will then compile a review to
identify best sellers and poor sellers.

–      
Samples of popular products may be gathered to be shown within a
range direction meeting.

–      
The quality control department may also contribute within the
meeting by suggesting technical problems that may explain the low sales figures
etc.

–      
This review meeting offers a framework of successes to build upon
for the new season’s range plan.

–      
Best sellers, however, may be a short-term fad and buyers may
choose not to run the style again.

 

Budget Planning

–      
Merchandisers plan the budget alongside the
buyer’s information about last season’s performance as well as anticipated
developments.

–      
Merchandisers can also estimate the value of the
range by defining the number of styles along with quantities.

–      
The finance department should also be involved
and aware of the budget plan as they are in control of the financial ability to
purchase future ranges.

 

Comparative and Directional
Shopping

–  
Comparative shopping takes place at the beginning of each season
in order to compare current merchandise within competitor’s stores and to
identify strengths and weaknesses of current and future ranges.

–  
Buyers and designers will then comprise a report of prices,
fabrics, colours and sketches of similar products from competing stores.

–  
Directional Shopping involves trips to gain inspiration for design
concepts.

–  
The location of the directional shopping will depend
on the company’s travel budget as well as the trend and desired style for the
upcoming range.

–  
Buyers will identify key shapes, details and colours and purchase
product samples to represent the key trends.

–  
WGSN is becoming the cheaper, digital alternative to directional
shopping for accessing upcoming trends, along with other trend forecasting
websites.

 

Trade Fairs, Fashion Shows and Research

–  
Buyers
visit trade fairs, such as premiere vision, that usually take place every six
months in order to create a starting point for developing a new season’s range.

–  
There are many specialist trade fairs for
different market sectors and garment types and therefore buyers will visit
those events which are most relevant to them.                   Figure 2

–  
Buyers also attend trade fairs to discover
new businesses, check out competitors and keep up to date with the fast
changing, hottest trends.

–  
Designer fashion shows are shown in the
fashion capitals of the world (Paris, New York, Milan and London) for
autumn/winter and spring/summer collections. Buyers are invited to view
collections and appointments can also be made to visit fashion houses after the
shows.

 

2.2  Sourcing and Range Building

 

Design Packs and Sampling

–   The Designer produces a design pack to translate concepts
from the design presentation into specification sheets with creative sketches,
photos, swatches, artwork and colour standards.

–   The garment technologist provides technical insight
towards the design packs and the buyer ensures commerciality of the design
packs.

–   Specification sheets for sampling and costing

–   Initial samples are reviewed by the buyer and re-worked
until they are happy with the overall product.

 

Range Planning

–  
A strategy meeting may take place
after the selection process where amendments can be made to pre-selection range
products to be shown on new line/purchase sheets.

–   Colourways and price points are considered to meet the
needs of the customer.

–   Range ‘width’ (choice of products) and ‘depth’ (choice of
styles, colours and sizes) must be balanced.

–   Range planning is the process of ensuring that every
store has the right range delivered to it during each season. There must be
correct quantities and number of lines at the right price and the right time.

–   The range planning process also involves defining the
detail of each range offer from fabric, details and styling through to
manufacture and price.

–   The final range selection meeting is the chance to
present the range in its entirety, with perfect samples for each style

–   The designer ensures newness in the range including ‘move
ons’ for best sellers.

–   The Merchandiser provides price points, styling and
colours as well as ensuring budgets and sales plans are adhered to.

–   Visual
Merchandisers attend selection meetings to understand the range inspiration,
garment ranking, store distribution and layout plans and VMs ensure that the
range is in line with the brand’s essence (along with the manger’s approval).

 

Sourcing

 

–  
Sourcing is
the process of selecting suppliers for manufacturing and delivering products
and their components.

–   The buyer is responsible for deciding where to source
each garment considering country specialism, cost prices, lead times and
distribution to particular suppliers.

–   Visits may be made by the buyer to new and existing
suppliers to ensure ethical compliance and factory standards.

–   Technologists Consider proposed suppliers in terms of
Code of Conduct, Performance & History, Technical Ability, Maintenance,
Training and Investment.

 

                                                                                                                              Figure 3

2.3 Production

 

Range Orders

–      
This is when orders are placed with particular
suppliers by buyers and merchandisers

dependant on cost prices,
quality, lead times and the supplier’s previous performance.

Figure 4

 

Critical Paths

–      
A schedule of key dates for product
development and production.

–      
Deadlines must be met in order to get product
out at launch date which are set by the buying and merchandise manager.

–      
Weekly meetings take place in order to identify
problems of each garment and to successfully monitor progress.

–      
Planned in reverse chronological order from
launch date

 

Product Development

–      
Lab dye swatch fabric sample.

–      
Buyer feedbacks to manufacturer.

–      
Product meets brands expectations and in turn
meets the demands and needs of the consumer.

–      
Tests are carried out on a sample length of
fabric; a performance indicator prior to bulk production.

 

                                                        

                                                                                                       Figure 5

 

Bulk Approvals and Production

–      
The buyer approves colour, trims, print,
embellishment before production commences, whilst the technologist approves the
fit, quality and construction.

–      
Once the fit has been approved, suppliers are
requested to submit 2 identical (sealing) samples.

–      
After approvals, washing instructions are issued
by the retailer’s fabric technologists and quality control department.

–      
The merchandiser places orders with the
suppliers.

–      
‘In work’ quality checks undertaken by
technologist and QC department.

–      
Marketing and PR teams’ co-ordinate any
photoshoot requirements whilst garments are in production to be ready for the
product launch.

 

Delivery

–      
The merchandiser co-ordinates delivery from
suppliers into the DC.

–      
Delivery may involve overseas shipment and this
must be accounted for in terms of time and therefore cost.

–      
Store distribution is allocated by the
merchandise team.

 

                                                                     
Figure 6

2.4 Intake

                                                              
         Figure 7

Warehouse to Store

–      
Intake is the amount of stock delivered into a
fashion business. Intake is phased into the business just ahead of anticipated
demand/sales peaks.

–      
The merchandiser is responsible for intake
control and works with suppliers and DC to co-ordinate deliveries in line with
launch dates.

–      
Products are delivered to the distribution
centre where they are held
and a quality control check takes place by specialised technologists.

–      
Products can then be allocated to stores based on grading and are
taken there in time for the range launch and in time for replenishment.

 

Marketing and Press

–      
Visual merchandisers work with stores on display and POS messages.

–      
In store and external campaigns launch.

–      
There is often a press open day that the marketing and PR team
must attend.

 

2.5Trading

 

Review and React

–  
This is a constant stage where there are reviews of the current
range always taking place.

–  
There is a review of performance of each style in the line in
order to identify failures and successes so that sales can be maximised in
future.

–  
Feedback into first stage of buying cycle again for planning of
the next range.

–  
The merchandiser monitors sales figures of all individual styles
and reacts to sales by buying more of the best sellers and cancelling worst
sellers where possible or implementing ‘markdown’ on poor selling lines.

–  
The merchandiser ensures sales targets are achieved.

–  
The buyer reacts to sales figures by possibly adding in additional
colourways to best sellers and thinking about ‘move ons’ for next season.

–  
The designer needs to be aware of best and worst sellers for when
planning future ranges.

–  
The technologist monitors high returns, faulty products and customer/store
feedback

–  
Marketing and PR work in conjunction with trading teams to push
products on social media that may need performance improvement.

3. Retail Roles

 

3.1 Role of the Designer

 

The design department is a key
element in the organisation of a company producing fashion merchandise and its
operation requires the same management principles as other departments. A
Designer is involved in a creative process turning customer needs into value
outcomes.

 

Figure 8

 

Responsibilities:

–      
Identifying trends which are suitable for the
store for a particular season and usually design the mood boards, colour
palettes and garment silhouettes to be used by the buying team and by the
clothing manufacturers which supply the retailer.

–      
seasonal trend research and interpretation for
colour fabric and product development to create a co-ordinated collection with
consistent direction.

–      
Being accountable for failures.

–      
Contact and copyright information.

–      
Commercial awareness; balancing the range
between core (generates more money) and fashion (magpie pieces to attract a
customer).

–      
Seasonal design presentations (management, team,
suppliers) twice a year; some retailers.

–      
Present range of initial samples to buyer and
help build range.

 

Qualities:

–      
Ability to work towards a critical path.

–      
Creative flair and unique approach to product
visualisation.

–      
Presentation skills.

–      
Good communication and a team player.

–      
Good eye for materials, colour etc.

–      
Strong drawing or IT skills.

–      
Sense of competition and business.

 

3.2 Role of the Fashion Buyer

 

Research, plan and source new
product and analyse the success of existing merchandise to meet customer demand
whilst satisfying the company goals.

Figure 9

 

Responsibilities:

–      
Gathering trend information in order to identify
fashion trends and consumer buying patterns.

–      
To source and develop products from an effective,
ethical supplier base, whilst balancing cost and quality.

–      
Ensure that the products bought for sale by the
retailer are appropriate for the target market and can sell in sufficient
quantities to achieve the profit margin.

–      
Negotiating product prices, delivery and payment
terms.

–      
Reviewing and analysing competitors ranges.

–      
Analysing sales, setting budgets and calculating
profit margins.

–      
Traveling to communicate with suppliers or
internal departments.

 

Qualities of a successful buyer:

–      
Versatile and flexible schedule.

–      
Enthusiastic, professional, decisive and well-motivated.

–      
Analytical and tenacious.

–      
Ability to work within very controlled
parameters of merchandise planning.

–      
Commercial with a creative flair.

–      
Negotiation skills.

–      
Must have strong working relationships based on
integrity, reliability and respect.

 

3.3 Role of the
Merchandiser

 

The term ‘merchandising’ in
fashion retailing refers to the total process of stock planning, management and
control. In larger, multiple retailers, the role is more specifically concerned
with planning, analysis and profit maximisation of stock.

 

Figure 10

 

Responsibilities:

–      
Maximise commercial opportunities of range.

–      
Creating the framework for buying budget,
defining the number of product types and determining the number of lines within
a range.

–      
critical path management (ensuring that the
product range selected and developed by the buyer is delivered to stores in the
right size ratios and quantities at the right time).

–      
Manage stock distributions to stores.

–      
Manage intake and accommodate the stock
requirements of the business at any given time and the open to buy requirements
of the garment type.

–      
Monitor sales progress, usually from a weekly
sales report (EPOS).

 

Qualities of a Merchandiser:

–      
Logical and rational.

–      
IT-orientated.

–      
Highly developed numeric skills and an innate
ability to spot trends within regular sales and stock figures.

–      
Good organisational abilities.

–      
Retentive memory and assertive.

–      
Ability to react quickly and effectively to
information as it arrives.

 

3.4 Role of Marketing and PR

 

Marketing is the process of
identifying and satisfying customer needs through the profitable supply of
product and service benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Responsibilities:

–      
The primary role of a fashion retail marketing
department is to promote the brand and its products, using the promotional mix
of advertising, public relations, sales promotion, personal selling, visual
merchandising and the internet.

–      
Ensure a new line gains the attention it needs
to be successful by advertising it to the target audience.

–      
Identifying and creating fashion trends to sell
products created by designers; they are the link between consumer and designer.

–      
Coordinating the product development team and
departmental buyers in line with the company’s marketing strategy.

–      
Attending fashion shows, press events and
appointments in designer showrooms.

–      
Visual design, advertisement campaigns,
promotions and maintaining brand strategy.

 

Qualities:

–      
Literacy/journalistic skills and articulate.

–      
Knowledge of brand equity and marketing
techniques.

–      
Awareness of trends and consumer buying habits.

–      
Knowledge of how to market products to a target
group.

–      
Creative, determined, persuasive and persistent.

–      
Excellent communication, mathematical and
analytical skills.

–      
Understanding of psychology and social trends.

 

3.5 Role of the Garment Technologist

 

A technical role concerned with
the quality, technical construction and performance of fabric and garments.

A garment technologist’s role is
to ensure the garment is fit for purpose in terms of fit, performance, supplier
performance, returns and safety/legislation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 13

 

 

 

 

 

Responsibilities:

–      
Visit suppliers to help decide on suitable
supplier/factory to handle production.

–      
Ensures that garments in the buyer’s range
conform to the quality standards set by the retailer, including fabrics.

–      
Oversee fitting sessions and comment on the
technical aspects including methods of garment manufacture and the balance of
the garments.

–      
Manages the product to the production,
delivery and packaging.

–      
Ensure garments comply with British
standards, safety regulations and legislation.

 

Qualities:

–      
Technical background and experience in both
fabric and garment construction.

–      
Problem solving and practical.

–      
A team player and good communicator.

–      
Creative.

–      
Effective organisational skills.

 

Conclusion

The relationships of the retail roles overlap and
interlink throughout the buying cycle to develop, produce and supply new
products despite retail job role titles varying between organisations. This
teamwork is fundamental to the success of the buying cycle.

 

Whilst
the buying cycle traditionally can take a year, it’s becoming more common for
smaller ranges to be developed quickly in order to respond to fast trends. This
is particularly common for retailers with a younger, fashion conscious target market.

 

In the
future, due to the changing, faster nature of fashion, retail activities are
likely to be split even further into different, more focused job roles. 

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