My experience working as a buyer goes all the way back to my time at Westside in the 80’s. None of us had any experience, we were young and were ultimately just buying brands/products we liked, no budgets in place. We would sit in a showroom, pull out styles we liked and then, without a second thought, would put an order together, put it out of our minds and off we go to the next appointment. We wouldn’t even take photos of the products to reference back to, and as we had no photos to look over, when orders would arrive 6 months later there was always an air of excitement in opening the boxes and seeing the pieces we had ordered. Back then, boxes were opened and priced on the shop floor and immediately put out for sale, with no social media or website to help promote the pieces. It was down to us to wear the product and build up personal relationships with our customers in order to sell the gear. If they liked our style, we were able to build up trust. So, whether a delivery was a well established brand they knew of already or a new one they had never heard of, that trust was already in place which in turn, guaranteed the success of any new brand we bought in. That approach to buying stuck with me, sometimes I would have liked to have had some experience working with a more corporate business, tighter budgets and the support of a larger team.

In my later years as a buyer, when walking into a showroom, whether it was to view a brand for the first time or an appointment we had done many times, once we had sat down with our agent my eyes were already scouring the rails of samples, looking for those tasty bits that stand out. Louis, my son, would accompany me on all buying appointments. He would start at one end of the rail and me the other, pulling out pieces as we went along. As we passed and went over what each other had already seen, very rarely did we find something the other had missed, both of us became very attuned to our customer tastes, although I was more likely to be the one take a chance on something a little more out there. Louis made notes on his laptop, I took photos and away we went. Unlike my days at Westside, we would reference back to the photos of the selected product, and once we where happy with our choices, quantities would be emailed over to our agents once all appointments for the season were complete. Budgets weren’t my strength, picking product and spotting a new brand was.

I always did enjoy buying season. I still get excited to see new brands, the latest product and when this arrives in our store to see customer reactions. It’s slightly different for us with our own brand. Although, we are now starting to buy other brands we feel compliment MARAI, our main job now starts with design and finding the right fabric that works best with each piece. Through this process, our mind is always on the customer. One thing for me hasn’t changed much though. Opening the boxes of product, getting the new drops onto the shop floor and then seeing customer reactions to our choices still feels as fulfilling as it did way back when.

July 06, 2023 — Martin Webster

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