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How To Pick The Right Merchandise For Your Retail Business
On this episode of the Tell Me Something Good About Retail podcast, my guest is Heidi Owen West. She is the owner of Lifestyles of Saratoga, Caroline and Main, and Union Hall Supply all in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Heidi started out in retail at the age of 14 working for a music venue. Later she incorporated her passion for fashion and the knowledge she gained from the Fashion Institute of Technology to get started in the fashion retail business.
In a time when everyone is calling for the demise of retail, Heidi has had some of her best years. One of her many keys to success is her ability to pick the right merchandise for her stores.
How does she do that? Well, it all starts with understanding each store’s purpose.
Understanding Your Store’s Purpose
When customers go into one of Heidi’s stores, they can see and feel its distinct personality.
For example, Caroline and Main has a “more relaxed, beachier vibe” while Lifestyles of Saratoga has a “more serious” tone and a broader selection to accommodate the bigger store.
In other words, each of Heidi’s businesses has a central theme or mission. While these themes overlap between her stores, it is her understanding of the subtle nuances between the stores that allow her to craft a unique customer experience for each.
And it is this understanding that allows her to pick the right merchandise for her stores.
Aligning Your Mission
When Heidi is deciding on merchandise to bring into her store, the first thing she looks at is how their mission aligns with hers.
According to her, “if their mission is different than yours, it’s never going to work. This is about finding brands that you can grow with, not against. If your missions do not align, your vendor is at a much higher chance of making a business decision that can adversely affect you.
This problem has been compounded by the internet. As Heidi states, the customer is more informed, and with “so many options, so many places to shop,” a vendor can go direct to consumer and put a product on sale without telling you, hurting your business.
When you align on your mission, you can build relationships with brands to help ensure these things don’t happen.
It All Comes Down To Customer Experience
Heidi states that the biggest challenge in retail is all the options customers have today. She tackles this challenge through “connection and [customer] experience.” It is why she has been so profitable over the past few years.
And guess what! Picking the merchandise that aligns with your mission helps create that distinct feeling for your store.
It is this unique feeling, this unique experience, that allows the customer to fall in love with your brand and what you provide.
To find see more about Heidi and her stores, check them out on Instagram and Facebook @lifestylesofsaratoga, @carolineandmain, and @unionhallsupplyco.
Also, this post just scratched the surface of what we discussed, so be sure to check out the full episode!
Heidi gives some more advice to anyone going into retail, tells us how she crafted an award-winning window and discusses the importance of sustainable fashion.