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Standing out from the crowd……….

As is always the case in a modern buying environment, it has been a very busy few weeks, and our ever changing business has presented numerous seemingly unsolvable problems. Every problem usually has a solution, but it does not always immediately present itself, and often requires plenty of discussion to find the best possible answer, which will drive out the greatest sales and profit. We are just building up to the start of a new seasons development, designers are frantically preparing designs and colour palettes for suppliers, and the buying teams are busy having preparatory meetings with those suppliers, in the build up to our next buying trip to the Far East.

Our main focus, however, at this moment in time, is our strategy for the business going forward, and what we are going to do to stand out from the crowd. This requires us all to think differently and brainstorm effectively, to drive out some really exciting ideas and opportunities. Apparently, these days, the word “brainstorm” is very un pc, I am not really sure why, and should be replaced by the term “thought shower”. How ridiculous! A “thought shower” sounds somewhat like a daydream, whereas a brainstorming session should be dynamic, creative, and every now and then, just a little bit bonkers, if it is going to drive out the best ideas! I shall, in this particular instance, be sticking to the old phrase regardless.

In every other aspect of my working life however, I am, and will continue to embrace change. That is one of the reasons I became a buyer in the first place; the industry is in a continual cycle of change and that is what makes it such an exciting place to be! Twenty four years after I started my journey up the buying ladder, it still gives me a buzz, and I still look forward to coming in on a Monday morning. I cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing! Stepping out of your comfort zone is obviously going to be a little uncomfortable, and will always be a challenge, but even more difficult, it seems, is motivating others to do the same. With a new merchandise director on board, bringing new ideas and challenges to the table, it is quickly becoming apparent that some are more ready to follow than others. If we have just one major difference to make to the business now, it is to let go of the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mental attitude. I am not even sure where this comes from in many instances, as we have so many new, creative and enthusiastic members on our team, but I guess, if you keep putting up barriers, eventually, the enthusiasm fades. Our greatest challenge, as a business, is to break down those barriers and give our teams the freedom to be truly creative. It appears to me that whilst we are all agreed that change is good and we should all embrace it, there is a tendency to default to the old way of doing something, when restricted by history, process and system limitations, or when the new/innovative way presents a problem. Tenacity in driving forward through all these difficulties is going to be the only way to get results.

We also need to maintain our level of confidence! I doubt there is a buyer on the high street who can say they have not had a difficult season, and this can play havoc with a buying teams confidence. Two of the key skills of a talented buyer are firstly, knowing when to take an educated risk, and secondly, having the confidence, on occasion, to go with a gut feeling. It is not always possible to analyse what has worked previously, and come up with an answer about what to do next – things have changed, trends and seasons have moved on, and sometimes, you just have to take the plunge and do what feels right.

Making major changes is frightening, and there are often no guarantees that the new way will drive better results, but with the level of experience and knowledge from around the industry that we have in our business, we really do have the potential to succeed, even in the current, very difficult retail climate.

The will is there…….we just need to find the way!

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