One of the most frequently asked questions when new friends find out that I’m a fashion entrepreneur is “ how do you decide what you buy for your business?” or framed differently, “how do you know that the styles you buy will fly with your customers?”
So, I thought for today’s blog, I’ll spend some time talking about the stuff that happens behind the scenes of the buying process for B&M and our purchasing criteria for new styles and products.
First and foremost, at B&M we never purchase our products based on price. We don’t set out to be the cheapest kid on the block and we don’t believe in price undercutting. We rather add value to our products than cut costs. Nothing irks me more than buying an item, washing it twice and have the colour or threads run, or the garment all bent out of shape. If it’s a basic item, to me it’s just a waste of time and money to search and buy its replacement. I’d rather have paid a little more and gotten something of a better quality that will last longer.
Having said that, when we first started our business, we bought lots of silks, linens, cottons, jacquards, tweeds and other high quality (equal high costs!!!) natural fibres, most of which required dry-cleaning. Our customers’ feedback were that although the quality of the fabrics were wonderful, some of them would appreciate if we could offer some easier to care for fabrics like viscose and polyester. So we listened and adjusted our purchases to suit the needs of our customers’ lifestyle. Comfortable fabric doesn’t necessarily have to be cashmere or silk. Practical man-made fabrics like jerseys, viscose and polyester that are machine washable are much easier to maintain, travel with and better for most pockets too. These days at B&M, we choose fabrics that hit the sweet spot between comfort and quality, between cost and maintenance.
The second criteria is my all-time favourite fashion principle and it comes from marketing guru Seth Godin, author of the NY times bestseller: “The Purple Cow”. We only buy products that have something remarkable about them (at least to us at the point of design/purchase and price is not a qualifier!). REMARKABLE - simply means something that is worthy of remarking. At B&M, when we select styles, we choose merchandise with remarkable qualities. These could range from dresses with exclusive prints, or a simple blouse swith an interesting fabric texture, a visual display with unusual colour combinations, lifestyle products with quirky details etc. Our bottom line is that at B&M, we do not sell basic or uniform products. We feel that there are already too many mass-market retailers and online that offer these basic items, so customers are already spoilt for choice. Furthurmore, uniformity has never been our strength. We are much better at being different, than at fitting in and our regular customers know that when they shop with us, our merchandise always have something special about them, that is not widely available elsewhere.
Lastly, when we source our designs and our merchandise, we do it personally. It’s been a decade now, but the buying for B&M has been the same since day 1. We source, design, manufacture and edit our products personally. We do not employ agents or engage other buyers to do the business for us. When we first started, we even handcarried the stocks back ourselves. Now that business has expanded, we employ a shipper, but even then, the quality control is carried out in-house. Sure, we still make mistakes along the way (who doesn’t?) but as far as possible, every style is fitted, every piece of fabric is washed, touched and felt before the merchandise are displayed in the shops. Why do we do that? Because we care. B&M is all about our creation, our brand, our style that we present everyday to the world, and we believe that if we consistently give our best, we will be rewarded when we see the joy on the faces of our customers as they wear our styles everyday and support our quest for grace, gladness and style.
Have a great week ahead!