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Best practices for virtual market appointments was the topic on Wednesday in a conversation with buyers from leading department and specialty stores.
Hosted by NuOrder, the Los Angeles-based business-to-business e-commerce platform, the buyers spoke about what brands need to do to have successful market appointments with retailers. The conversation was led by Paola de Marco, director of retail client experience at NuOrder.
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The buyers’ suggestions ranged from sending fabric swatches to retailers to showing ready-to-wear on figures to augmenting line sheets with inspiration videos and giving a virtual tour of their showrooms.
Participants were Joyce Lin, Nordstrom buyer, women’s advanced contemporary; Lisa Warford, Nordstrom buyer, women’s best shoes; Marisa Silber, Saks Fifth Avenue buyer, designer and contemporary shoes; Kate Butler, Saks buyer, women’s contemporary collections, and Wenny Luo, Bloomingdale’s buyer, women’s modern collections.
Now that appointments are 100 percent digital, Nordstrom’s Warford said pre-market has become an important part of their planning process. She said NuOrder enables brands to load their collections prior to the appointments so she can view and pre-assort the buy, which enables the appointment to be more efficient and flow smoothly. She said suppliers have created a virtual tour of their showrooms, which allows the buyers to see the point of view of how the collection has come together, as well as spotlights the key trends and colorways.
Nordstrom’s Lin said it’s important for brands to be prepared with assets and having clear images loaded on NuOrder is important, and on figure is preferred for rtw. A lot of their brands send swatches ahead of time so they can feel the fabric, which doesn’t come across on a screen. She also suggested brands present the most important style groups first.
“A lot of our brands have done a great job at merchandised rack visuals, which has helped us as we build color stories and we can see how styles are merchandised on a fixture. A clear video and clear sound go a long way in a virtual market appointment,” she said.
According to Bloomingdale’s Luo, a brand like Eileen Fisher has utilized the brand portal, so before her market appointment, she’ll go to the brand portal and see the inspiration behind the line and the color stories. She said Lafayette 148 does video with its creative director Emily Smith walking through the line as if you’re there.
“It’s very well done,” she said. They also record a runway show. “It lets us see the clothes on the body and how they see it. Whatever brands can do to make it feel like you’re there is very helpful…and swatches are key, too,” Luo said.
Saks’ Butler agreed that having a line sheet is good, but all the value-adds are important. She believes it’s good to add other elements, such as the swatch book, inspiration slides and information on how the collection came together. She likes seeing how they envision it in a retail store “and I can translate it to how it will look at Saks,” she said.
“I’m always asking for additional context. That’s what makes a successful appointment,” Butler said.
Saks’ Silber said she used to go to Europe multiple times a year to see footwear. For shoes, it’s hard to virtually see the weight of a shoe. She said if a shoe is too heavy, the customer will return it. She also noted that sometimes colors in person can be different on screens.
Asked how they decide what brands to work with, Saks’ Butler said it always comes down to great products. She also likes brands whose team is passionate about the line, which becomes contagious. She explained that there will be ups and downs in the business, and she’s looking for brands “who can hold hands together in thick and thin, having solid partnerships is invaluable.”
In response to a question from a viewer, Nordstrom’s Warford said buyers are always looking for new resources and brands and use their fashion office as a resource. She receives emails daily and responds to them all. “If you send me an email and line sheets, I will look at them and I will give you feedback, yes or no…. New resources are super important to our business. My job is to view everything and get back to you with my feedback,” she said. She said for emerging brands, it’s important for them to know their market, brand relevance and price-value are super important, and the brand should be building its profile on social media.
The buyers said they are going to be digital for June, and are hopeful that in September they’ll be able to see some people in the market.