Often in the early years of a new business many of us work at job at the same time, to earn some income while we try to get our new business off the ground.... and West Indies Wear was just like that. I already had 15 years experience with design and manufacturing in the clothing business, so when an opportunity came up to be General Manager for a chain of 16 stores in the Caribbean, I jumped at it.
Afterall, it was a chance to move off the boat for a little while and learn something new.
The stores were called Shipwreck Shops, and the previous owners had grown and nurtured the business for 40 years. They decided to sell so that they could retire. The new owner was a Mexican corporation with thousands of stores in USA, Mexico and Europe. I was so eager to learn the RETAIL side of the business, and here was an opportunity where I would be thrown into the deep end, but still have the support of the previous owners of the company. Here we are together on my first trip to New York Gift Show with them. I learnt so much !
Now Shipwreck Shops had 16 stores, one in the airport, two at the cruise ship terminal, and many in hotels. Some where tiny little hotel convenience stores, and others were large resort stores.
The line of merchandise ranged from small handicrafts & souvenirs....
To t-shirts & clothing...
Souvenir food items, like Caribbean hot sauces, rum truffles, spices and Jamaican coffee...
We even carried toys that visiting grandparents could buy to take home for their grand children. The product line was HUGE.... and I worried myself, about how I would remember to re-order everything.
The buying technique these guys taught me, was to order a "trial order", and test the new products out in 3 of our best stores, and do this at least 2 months before high season started. If it sold well in those 2 months, then I had to RE-ORDER, RE-ORDER, RE-ORDER once high season started rolling.... keep on top of it and keep the good stuff coming. Now that can be tricky, because if it is sold out quickly, and its no longer on the shelf, you tend to forget you even had it in the first place. So its very important to have a system to keep on top of it.
If something didn't sell so well, then Ok.... learn from it, move it around the store. Try it in different locations, change up your displays and be prepared to put it on sale and "move on" at the end of the season. Let go of it (if you only did a trial order you shouldn't have massive quantities of it anyway) and FOCUS on the GOOD SELLERS..... get more, and get them quickly!
Especially considering the longer shipping times to the island.
So I devised a plan to keep myself in check. I designed an Excel worksheet that had all the vendor's listed down the side, and then a column for each month of the year. Each time I ran an inventory report and checked the QOH (Quantity on Hand) I would fill in the date, and color the box YELLOW if the inventory was checked but no re-order was needed or GREEN if the inventory was checked and a re-order was placed. Using this system, I was able to keep tabs on all of my different product lines.
Click here to download a FREE version of template for you to customize for your own use.
One love x
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