How To: Stock A Store

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Tina Burgos from last week’s interview knows a lot about curating a shop, and even more about how to be smart about doing it. From intentionally picking items other women would wear even if she wouldn’t, to working out her exact budget before going ahead with a purchase, here’s her 5 top tips on how to stock your store.

1. Determine which brands would be the best fit.
"The first step is figuring out which designers are going to be the right fit. And it’s pretty easy to figure out how to reach out to these guys because everybody in this day and age really should have a pretty strong web presence. Once we reach out to them, we’ll see if they think it’s a right fit. It’s sort of an interview process, it’s a little bit of a song and dance. You have to make sure that they’re going to be a right fit in your shop and work with all the other product that you carry. They want to make sure that you’re representing their brand the way that they think it should be represented."

2. Book a meeting to see the line in person.
"From there, if we both feel like it’s going to be a mutually beneficial relationship, I will make an appointment to see them. I do not like to go to trade shows because they’re enormous, typically brands don’t bring all of their stock, and I like to buy things that are different and unique. I like to meet the designers if possible, and see them in a more intimate setting. So typically showrooms is a much better situation for me. If I like the line, I’ll pick it up."

3. Have your money in order to be able to buy ahead – and know the rules about buying internationally, too!
"Depending on what their minimums are, again because most of these brands are small, independent designers, in order for them to meet their costs and to keep their prices reasonable, they will have to produce a certain amount of product. So, if stores are only spending let’s say $500 on an order or $1,000 on an order, unless they picked up 50 or 60 accounts, they’re never going to make their minimums. So a lot of these guys will require some sort of minimum, which could be anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000.

We have a couple of brands that we carry from overseas. I don’t pick up a lot of clothing because it costs a fortune to have that stuff shipped from Japan and bring it here between freight and the taxes that I have to pay for that stuff coming in, that could be an additional couple thousand dollars that I have to pay to bring that stuff in. So, with brands like that I always stick with what I know is going to sell, probably less expensive things, because the mark up is going to be so tremendous that it would be difficult to sell here."

4. Be flexible with your purchases.
"Then you wait 4 or 5 months until the product comes in and hopefully it fits in. You never know what’s going to happen in that 4 or 5 months, because that’s when production happens, so they may change a color or change the finishing on a garment, the buttons may be different...a lot of things get cancelled because other stores decided they just didn’t want that product. I may have been the only one who ordered that particular dress in that particular fabric so they’ll just cancel it off.

The tricky thing is, because you’re placing an order so far in advance, if you get a cancellation it’s hard to fill those dollars because at that point, everybody has produced their product. And unless you can find somebody who has overstock or figure out a line that is producing made to order in a more immediate fashion, those dollars are lost. So, another part of what goes into my decision making is do these guys have a stable enough business where I know that this money that I’m investing in them is actually going to be put to good use."

5. Establish yourself in your industry.
"A lot of brands will not work with brand new stores, you have to be in business for at least a year, 18 months before they will say to you “okay, it looks like you have some stability, some legs. We’ll ship to you” or “we’ll agree to work with you”. And you also have to keep in mind that they’re producing to order. So, if somebody places a 3, 4, 5, $10,000 order and that store goes under, well they’ve already produced that product and now what are they going to do with this order that is no longer going to be paid for because that store isn’t going to pay for it.

So, yes there’s a lot of aesthetic that goes into it and trying to figure out what my eye likes and what’s going to work with my customer base. But again, constantly keep in mind ‘okay, what are the business ramifications with potentially working with this brand?’ Those are the different bits and pieces that are going in my head when I think about picking up a brand."

Thank you so much, Tina! All this information made us start to think that we'd like to open our own store one day : ). Readers, after learning about Tina and checking out her beautiful shop, come back next week to hear what it’s like to be the president of a college. (Photo Credit: Christopher Schuch, photo provided by Tina Burgos)