Being the buyer for my retail store, I am always sourcing new products. Living and working in New York, I don’t have to travel far to source at the apparel and gift shows or showrooms in the garment district.
The retail industry is changing. Retailers big and small are trying to keep up. I have noticed over the last few years many manufacturers are bowing out of the tradeshows. Online wholesale sites are popping up and although new companies are constantly joining the market with shiny branding and high hopes of taking a market share, many have closed.
Over the last two years, I lost four of my main clothing lines. For a small business, this is a big number. Although I am constantly looking for new sources, this situation has left me on high alert. Sourcing clothing that fits the niche market I cater to is now even more difficult. I look for high-quality fabrics, flattering designs for women wanting to wear comfort and ease of style at a moderate price point.
It is very easy to source cheap clothing. The market is flooded with low-quality fabrics and low-end craftsmanship. It is also very easy to source high-end clothing. Beautiful as these gorgeous creatures are, they are not in the price point I am offering to my customer, nor are they generally in the style and design I am looking for. I like to buy clothing we can wear every day.
So, what is a buyer to do?
Well, I have been using a few different tactics. I hunt on social media for sources, and then I research the company. This has opened the whole world to me.
I also have to say, I love the connection with small artistic brands I have found. Most are owned and operated by women, and even generally in the same age demographic. This has been growing into a support system and I love it.
This morning I was DMing India on Instagram, ordering clothing from an Australian Designer. Last night I glanced at a textile jewelry line in South Africa and saw a new product I have put on my list to buy this spring.
I can take a peek at the lines other small boutiques are carrying across the country and if I find something I think may work in my store, I source the designer-manufacturer. This has really added to my resources. Many small boutique companies cannot afford to show in tradeshows so I would never know they existed.
As a small business owner, to stay in business, one must constantly find new ways to fight the fight. There are always new opportunities to take advantage of in our constantly morphing industry and social media has very high value.
Social media can also suck the life out of small retailers. We live in a new age and to stay relevant and hopefully bring in sales, all this 'BE YOUR OWN MARKETER' is so time-consuming and exhausting. If you don't have the money to hire someone who can understand your market, don't bother. You will have to do it yourself. That being said, I am continuing to find reasons to keep at it. Sales of course but also a sense of connected community.
I really appreciate all of it.