A small business owner is responsible for, well, everything! She is the marketing department, accounting department, payroll, customer service, sale, human resources, IT, product prep, ordering, shipping/receiving, merchandising, housekeeping . . . The buck officially stops here. It is long hours for little or no pay as you build your business into your dream. Every business has its unique challenges and solutions and if you can’t learn to roll then self-employment likely isn’t for you.
One of the big ‘owner challenges’ I face twice a year is Market. Where we go to order everything we’ll be selling later in the year. For my daywear stuff it’s like a giant trade show. Suppliers call you a few months in advance and book appointments, and you schedule time for browsing as well to find that perfect something you might be missing. Bridal and grad are a little different. Most of my bridal vendors take conference rooms at hotels at a particular city (Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary etc) for a set group of days. We drive in a spend a few days visiting each suppliers sales representative, viewing the upcoming line and making our choices for which gowns we’ll bring in for the next season.
What many people may not know is that in order to sell a bridal or grad line, we have a contract with each of our suppliers. That contract states that we will order a certain number of samples each season. That we won’t sell our gowns online (I can let you know I have the gowns, even colour and size, but I can’t have a ‘web store’ saying you can order any size or colour of any style), and that we’ll price our gowns according to a set pricing window. Every contract is unique but the types of terms are very similar. When we keep our side of the agreements, our suppliers agree to tell people we sell their lines, and allow us to order any of the gowns from those lines, even if we don’t have a sample of that particular gown in store. (This is very different from day wear where you pre-order a size group of an outfit, and if you don’t have it in store, you cannot sell it.)
So, usually twice a year, we meet with our sales reps and chose our samples for our ‘placing order’. This week we are headed to Edmonton to order for fall delivery.
In order to make the best possible choices for my store, and have the best possible selection for my brides, I make lists. Lots and lots of lists. As soon as my spring samples arrive and all the gowns from the bridal show are unpacked, I start. By the time I head to Market, I will have spreadsheets that tell me the size, colour, fabric, body style and designer of every gown in the store. I will know which designers have sold and which ones haven’t. How many were ‘special order’ sales and how many were discount clearance sales. And how does all this information compare to what I had in the store 6 months earlier.
To an outsider, it seems like a lot of unnecessary work. But I strongly believe this preparation is what makes me able to create a store that is different from other bridal salons. Because by doing this, I know, that baring gowns being sold off the rack, when a bride comes in she will be able to try pretty much every fabric, in every body style. I may not have a size 20, lace top princess gown with a strap in pink. But I will have each of those elements for her to see and try between size 16 – 24 (for example). A bride or grad in our store will get a very good idea of what her dream gown will look like on. Even if we don’t have her exact dream gown in the store. Making sure every bride, not matter what her size and budget, has a great selection of gowns to try is why we order sizes 6 – 30. And why we work with 5 different bridal lines.
Have a great week!