At this point, I think it’s safe to say that everyone has experienced some form of delayed shipment since the pandemic began. Vendors are struggling with overseas logistics, ports are backed up with whatever shipments have successfully made it off the boat, and products are taking much longer to transport to the final destination.
As an owner of both a wholesale company and a retail chain, no one understands the frustration better than I do. However, there comes a time when we must accept that there are factors beyond our control, and take action to succeed with what we have. So, what is the solution here? In my opinion, the key to success in these times, whether you are an online retailer or a brick-and-mortar store, is creative merchandising.
The first thing you want to do is make sure you always order your bestsellers in bulk. In terms of lingerie, there are some pieces that we just know will sell all year long. You know what I’m talking about: black lace or sheer fabric, crotchless styles, skimpy panties and hosiery basics. We could probably flatten a cardboard box and write “For Sale” on it with a permanent marker and these items are still going to sell out. These are the items you want to place bulk orders for. Gone are the days where you can replenish orders when you’re running low on a hot item and expect your delivery to arrive shortly after. The thing is, you just can’t be sure that your wholesaler won’t sell out of that item as soon as it hits the warehouse floor. It’s important to understand that if it is selling well for you, it is probably selling well for other retailers too. Run your numbers or survey your staff to figure out what your store’s hottest sellers are and allot a significant amount of your budget to place a larger order.
Of course, the real challenge lies in the dreaded seasonal items. Seasonal items are obviously important to carry, as we rely on them to keep retail spaces looking fresh, but when they come in late, we could have a tough time selling them because they look out of place in the store. We are feeling this now with the aftermath of Christmas. But here is the good news: many of those holiday items can be re-merchandised to work for Valentine’s Day or could even convert into one of those year-round bestsellers discussed above.
On our wholesale side, I can’t even count how many times we have moved styles, sometimes even whole collections, from our Holiday line to our Main line. We even reshot some of the styles this past couple of weeks so that they would have a Valentine’s feel to them. For this strategy to succeed, from a wholesale perspective, we need to re-market these pieces with fresh images for our retailers, portraying a more versatile theme. For example, if a red lace bra set is shot on a model wearing a Santa hat, our retailers see it as a Christmas item. They merchandise it for the holiday season and the end customer can’t visualize it any other way. When the season is over, if the retailer has no updated image to accompany the item, it gets tossed in a box in the back room for the next eight months. But it’s a red bra set. It should be a best-selling staple! For this reason, we like to provide our retailers with a variety of images, some of which are holiday-specific and some of which are not.
Unfortunately, not every wholesaler has the means to provide multiple images and not every retailer is able to organize a costly, time-consuming photoshoot. Luckily, there are still other ways to re-merchandize. For online retailers, you obviously do need an image so do your best to neutralize the one you have. If you have a graphic designer on staff, have them remove the festive background. For those who don’t have a graphic designer, there are apps out there now that do a pretty decent job at background blurring or removal. If the model is wearing a Santa hat, crop her head off. Online shoppers love a detailed closeup anyway. Next, you want to organize your items in a way that creates a story. Consider capsule trends to do this and add new themed graphics along the sides and banners.
For brick-and-mortar retailers, we suggest removing the images altogether and let the products sell themselves. Not only can you create a story here, but you get to create a full experience. Window displays are the obvious place to start. If you are transforming that red lace bra set from Christmas to Valentine’s Day, drape sexy sheer fabric around your windows and add all the gimmicks, battery-powered candles and a mix of red and pink faux flowers as an example of how to create a mood. Then take it a step further in your own way. If you are re-merchandising sparkly black or silver styles that you ordered for New Year’s Eve into Valentine’s Day pieces, black and silver heart-shaped helium balloons tied to the center of a display are a cost-effective way to set a scene. Also keep in mind that scents and music play a part in overall customer experience. Moving a winter piece into summer? Try a tropical scent and reggaetón music in your store. It might seem silly, but it works.
Of course, there will be the odd piece that gets left behind in all this. Sure, the red velvet with the white marabou will just have to wait until next year, but you will be surprised at the versatility of your existing stock once you start analyzing it. Most importantly, try to remember that even the Amazons and Walmarts of the world are dealing with supply chain issues, so your customer is desperately looking to you to get creative for them.