We’re halfway through 2016 already! Where did all the time go? Didn’t I just do a post about my top 5 lessons from 2015? Then I completely submerged into the writing of a new online course (more of that later, I promise ;)), and suddenly, here we are past 6 months into 2016!
Hopefully, your half year panned better than mine, (there are only so many ways I can say the retail scene has slowed down … bla bla … before I even bore myself!). I’m staying away from those negative vibes, because we all know, the more we allow those nagging voices to dominate our thoughts, soon everything goes downhill into the “we’re too weak, small, demoralised” … to do anything anymore.
So instead on delving on those sad thoughts, I decided to do a 2-part half-year gratitude checklist for the things we did get done for the business, and I hope that this will serve as a happy update and catch-up session, from us to you, our dear friends and subscribers!
We’ve cultivated and grown our Instagram following to almost 1.5K as of June 2016. Of course this number is very modest compared to the hundreds of thousands, other people have, but we are happy that with our almost daily posts, we have made so many friends on IG. We don’t buy followers, we certainly don’t pay people to post for us or to like our IG posts, and we reply to all IG comments personally. We are always mindful that behind every “like”, every “comment”, every follower on IG, there is a human being that we are engaging with, and if we post a beautiful image, style photo or motivational quote and it makes someone smile or cheers someone up, we’ve done good for the day.
2. Buying Trips
Long long ago, when I was a regional buyer for a luxury brand, I only did 2 - 3 trips annually – Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter and sometimes Resort per brand that I handled. Everything was well organised then: there were glamorous fashion shows where the collections were previewed and urban buying offices, where international buyers like myself would congregate after the shows to work the collections with our respective country/regional representative. My part was to select the most commercially viable styles for my region (Asia) while being aware not to compromise on the “essence of the collection”, and not busting the budget! Everything was professional and sleek, complete with colour laser printer facilities and freshly ground coffee percolating 24/7. If we were ever unsure about fit for a particular style, there were even “flesh and blood” standby fitting models, who would dress (and undress) right before our eyes to personally demonstrate how the clothes will look on these almost perfect human specimens! (Of course I oogled!! – who wouldn’t? *wink *wink!!)
However, since I left the luxury brand, those buying trips have become a distant memory. In the last decade, all our buying trips involved us carting our stocks, samples, fabrics to obscure neighbourhoods and industrial estates in Korea, Hong Kong and China, sometimes on dubious transport with travel schedules let’s just say – not for the fainthearted!
Imagine our surprise when late last year, we were invited by one of our main suppliers for a buying preview for the new collection, and given the opportunity to contribute our inputs on styling and colours and place our orders before the collection was showed to other purchasers. We had a fantastic working session with our Korean and Hong Kong team of manufacturers and designers, openly sharing style ideas, retail and production needs amidst a changing business landscape that affects us all and we hammered out a simple plan how we can help each other be more effective in our strengths and cut down on the cost incurring, time consuming mundane activities by making use of technology and trust to bridge some gaps.
Anyway, long story short, since that watershed meeting, we’ve managed to tightened up our buying processes, we employ smaller but more frequent drop shipments for our purchases which means we now buy more accurately, and respond much faster to our customers’ requests. Our manufacturers don’t waste resources, because we’ve worked out the numbers with them, so they no longer have to over produce then hold stocks for clearance later. Sure, we still don’t have the fresh coffee machines, but we get good tea, and actually, Asian models fit much closer to our customers’ silhouette and skintone too! It’s a big win for all of us, and we’re grateful for the open communication that led to savings in time, cash-flow, labour and resources.
Also, because we have seen the preview of the collections and the production timeline, we know what styles are coming and when, and it’s a great help for us to plan our store merchandise launches, marketing ideas and other social media materials.
3. New Shoe Supplier
Every smart woman knows that shoes can make or break your outfit. Give the woman the right shoes and she can rule the world! Give the woman the wrong shoes and she’ll be limping along the whole day and grouchy while she’s at it. At B&M, we’ve always been looking for good shoes to “complete” our merchandise offering. At one point, we even went on a 2 women quest to find, style and produce our own shoes for our shops.
We knew what we wanted; office appropriate, dependable and comfortable leather shoes that do not compromise on quality or style for the modern busy working women. Our issue was - our quantities were so minuscule that legitimate shoemakers - even if they were willing to help us, the cost of production were too high for it to be a sustainable business proposition for either party. That’s why we’re so thrilled when we met the folks from Lucca Vudor - their leather shoes are super comfortable! We’re so happy to have them on board at our Marina Bay Link Mall boutique, and we’re pleased to report that our customers have given very positive feedback for their footwear. The shoe sizes run from 35 – 40, and they handle special requests to custom make sizes up to 43. Don’t take our word for it, come and try on their shoes for yourselves. It’ll certainly put a smile on your face and a spring in your step!
That rounds up Part 1 or our Gratitude Checklist, will post Part 2 about our book and online course journey soon, so stay tuned and subscribe to our blog. We write about our fashion entrepreneurial journey, style ideas and new life experiences as it happens. Now it’s over to you. Half a year has gone by already. What’s your biggest win in these last 6 months? What’s the greatest struggle you had to overcome in your style, work or life? I’d love to hear from you.
No guarantees that I’ll be of any help whatsoever, but sharing halves the burden, and who knows, there’s nothing new under the sun, somehow, somewhere, somebody will have experienced it before and may be able to shed some light for a fellow traveller on this journey we call life.
Let’s move on together, with grace, gladness and style.