Buyers’ Top Three Challenges and How to Win at Them

February 10, 2021

For wholesale buyers, the stars have aligned.  

Since the 2008 recession, our industry has reacted to the possibilities of digital and played catch up with changing market demand. Instead of consistently and proactively innovating against the root causes of excess inventory and discounting, we have too often applied band-aid measures to maintain the status quo--casting buyers, for example, as the curators of safe and ubiquitous brands. The pandemic has raised table stakes across the wholesale cycle, forcing us to course-correct for out-of-sync practices. As a result, buyers now have the opportunity--and the imperative--to apply the creative trendspotting and discovery skills that initially defined their role in the industry and drew them to the game.

 1. Challenge: The anathema of the middle. 

Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba draw an ever-increasing market share. The health crisis has catalyzed this trend, and other retailers simply cannot compete on the mega-marketplaces’ terms. At the same time, market demand has become increasingly concentrated in value and luxury segments--another tendency that current economic pressure has accelerated. With rising unemployment and uncertainty, apparel retailers have to work harder to compete for this shrinking disposable income pot. 

Opportunity: Attract customers with a clear and unique identity. 

Today’s retailers need to be one thing to some people. According to retail futurist Doug Stephens, retailers who succeed will stand out for one or a small number of key differentiators--for example societal good, retail theater/experience, curation, trend prediction, level of service, etc.. And this area of specialty can define one or two of their operational dimensions--i.e. Product, Content, Experience, or Expertise. But if retailers widen the lens beyond that point, they risk falling into the ‘all things to all people’ catchall--a category Amazon et. al. comfortably dominate. With such an urgent need to individuate, one thing is clear: a buyer’s edit has never been more important. 

And to stay relevant in this unpredictable and demand-focused environment, buyers must make that critical edit as efficiently and extraordinarily as possible. Yet many have found some virtual marketplaces difficult to navigate and overwhelming in terms of detail. With smart design and responsive development, however, digital can dramatically streamline and enhance the virtual discovery process. For example, JOOR offers a single point of access to all live international trade events, and allows buyers to sort brands by point of differentiation (e.g. female founded, minority-led, made in the USA, conscious wardrobe, etc.) in addition to product type. JOOR brands can also send buyers custom curated virtual showrooms, adding a further level of individualization and efficiency to the order process. 

 2. Challenge: Brands need a ‘what’s in it for me.’

The growth of digital and the ongoing squeeze of the middle class have chipped away at traditional wholesale relationships for quite some time. Pressured retailers have asked brands for exclusive styles to stand out, while at the same time relying on year after year of brand-damaging discounts to clear their shelves. In response, many brands have developed their own digital and owned store channels to maintain consistent control over presentation and pricing. The pandemic compounded this rift: US and EU buyers canceled on $16.2 billion in orders in the spring of 2020--not the best way to strengthen weakened ties. Since then the strongest brands, such as Nike, have actively cut many wholesale ties, while others explore options. Moving forward, brand/retailer partnerships will need to be more equitable. And buyers will need to prove their worth.  

Opportunity: Inspire and connect with your own unique story. Retailers must not only market to their end customers--they need to sell themselves to brands. Savvy brands understand that the current conditions require sharp, simplified and extremely customer-led collections that sell through without markdown. No one can afford to place products in softly-defined, catch-all contexts that attract the wrong shopper. So brands seek out retail partners that share their vision and values and naturally extend their own narrative. JOOR gives buyers the opportunity to create profiles to share more about their stores: the brands they carry, their customers, locations, price points and other important aspects in choosing a stockist.

 3. Challenge: Absolutely anything can happen. This year of pandemic, social unrest, and unprecedented customer behavior has taught us to expect the unexpected. With disposable income at a premium, buyers and brands must quickly pivot with customers’ increasing and often shifting expectations of service, personalization, curation and choice. In addition, analysts forecast an array of possible recovery scenarios, and advise wholesalers prepare to hit the ground running with whichever may emerge. 

Opportunity: Boost competitive advantage with stronger, more collaborative partnerships. 

Close collaboration increases organizations’ agility, making it easier and faster to recognize and successfully act on market possibilities as they emerge. Internally, this entails increasing communication between departments, automating data-based processes, and breaking down silos to centralize insights for fast and successful decisions. Externally, it requires opening lines of communication and chipping away at the ‘walls’ that traditionally separate business partners to make real-time knowledge shareable across company lines. As a fully-integrated virtual showroom platform and tradeshow ecosystem, JOOR facilitates such insight-based alliances--making it possible for brands and buyers to strategize together, course correct as a team, discover opportunities, and transact globally at the speed of market developments.

The crystallizing ‘new normal’ calls on buyers to once more assemble creative assortments that thread the needle between consumer tastes, emerging talent, societal values, and economic trends. The new virtual landscape has its own distinct requirements, however, and to succeed buyers need a fully-connected virtual showroom and tradeshow platform to work quickly, communicate clearly, and collaborate closely. JOOR is standing by to provide the 24/7 digital support buyers--and the global wholesale ecosystem--need to win at this game.  

Register for free to shop our brands on JOOR this upcoming market season. 

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