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I opened AQOF on a bit of a whim. I was quite limited and started out stocking a lot of small, locally made goods from brands with low minimum orders and flexible terms. The first 12 months I definitely reinvested the majority of my turnover directly back into stock, picking up new brands as my budget allowed me to do so.
When I look for stock these days I generally look for items that are locally designed and/or made. I really love supporting small, local businesses. I look for items that my staff and I love. This way we’re selling products we use and genuinely believe in, rather than just selling product for the sake of selling product. It can be a balancing act and quite often it’s a matter of finding the right thing at the right time when I have the budget, space and need in-store to fill a gap in our product offering.
Our best sellers are constantly changing depending on the season, the ranges we have in-store, stock availability, trends etc. Classic fashion pieces; "wardrobe staples" are good sellers. When it comes to fashion and accessories we find customers are very practical these days, investing in quality, classic clothing pieces and using accessories to change up their outfits. When it comes to home/giftwares a nice book or candle would probably be the top sellers.
I get contacted a lot by potential brands wanting me to look at their product. I’d say I would on average have at least six brands a week contact me hoping I’ll stock their product. I am definitely open to hearing from designers/companies who think their product would be a great fit. I really like to pick up brands early and help them start out and there is nothing more flattering than people wanting to be stocked in AQOF.
I think the best approach is a quick call to the store to find out who to contact regarding buying and requesting their contact details/email. I read a lot of emails so in regards to a pitch I’d say keep it short, sweet and concise. The main details I’d be looking for are:
I’d also expect that all the information I’d need to place an order or make a decision as to whether it is something I want to/can stock would be included in the initial email.
I get people doing all sorts of things. I have people pop into the shop unannounced to show me their product, I have people call and pitch products to myself/my staff members over the phone, I have people email their lookbooks through and direct me to their website and I have people send me samples and lookbooks in the post.
For seasonal items you generally work around six months ahead. If products are made to order then orders need to be placed quite a few months in advance so there’s time for production. If brands are a bit larger and hold stock on hand – or have the ability to produce items quickly and are flexible with their terms – that can work well for stores. It’s also always great to check out stock before orders have to be placed so that when it comes time to do my buying I’m aware of new ranges I might be looking to take on and can work out and allocate my budget. Winter ordering is usually done in September/October and summer buying is in February/March.
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