It is not uncommon for us to have clients and friends ask if we can sneak them in our luggage on our next buying trip... ummm...
1. We're stylists, and we use carry-ons, do you think there's any room left in our suitcases?!
2. Do you really know what you would be getting yourself into?!
Before you book your ticket, we're going to give you a behind the scenes look at our most recent buying trip to New York's Coterie Show. It's one of our favorite places to visit because it's a quick flight, we can see all of our brands in one place, and we love being in the city with all of the amazing restaurants and shows (plus having friends and family that live there is an added bonus)
Disclaimer: Are buying trips fun?... Yes! But while exhilarating, they are also very exhausting...
The Javitz Center New York
Background info: We attend at least 4 markets per year, 2 of those are in New York . In February we are buying for fall/winter and in September we are buying for Spring/Summer (yes, we are ordering approx. 6 months in advance...!). We spend 2 full days at each market and work 8-10 hours each day.
The Entrance to the Show!
The Buying Team: The buying team changes from time to time, but these are the 3 'usual suspects'. Why do we bring 3 people? It's easier to make quick decisions = the majority wins.
Ellie: Grand Haven Store Manager - Ellie has been with L&B the longest and is working with clients hearing their wants & needs daily, so she brings great insight; as well as some much needed comedic relief :)
Nikki: Founder/President - Nikki is the "developer" of the L&B brand & style since the beginning and has played a roll in every style that hits the L&B floor. She has never missed a buying trip in over 10 years of being in business.
Sarah: L&B General Manager - Sarah over-sees all 3 Lee&Birch locations as well as vendor relations and has the best insights on what the hottest sellers are and will be in each location. She also previously lived in New York, so she doubles as our in-house travel guide.
Checking out the lookbook at the Tart booth
The Process: Buying is not just a simple 'pick what you' like process. There are many factors that go into our market trips + preparation. We take into account the evolving trends, budgets, best selling brands, previous failures and successes, quantity of each piece needed as well as what sizes & color, and of course our customers - right down to individual customers who shop with us on a regular basis and like specific brands/styles. Buy too much, buy too little, or buy the wrong things... all of these factors can make or break you for the upcoming season.
Overview of just a small corner of the show - yes, this is only about 1/6 of the amount of booths/vendors
Scheduling: The show is very big, so we make appointments before we go to try to fit in as much as possible. We usually meet with each rep/brand for about 1 hour and see an average of 3 deliveries at each (deliveries being what months the goods will arrive). For instance, at one vendor, we might be writing 3 separate orders for July, August, September.
Eating on the Go! Eating breakfast while writing Bella Dahl
What happens at each appointment?
Most of our relationships with the reps have evolved into friendships after working together for so many years, so after catching up for a bit and going over how the brand has been doing, we get started on looking through all of the styles! On the first run-thru, we have the rep pull everything that we like. Then we go back through to re-evaluate and to touch each piece (sometimes try-on) eliminating styles as we go. Following that, there is usually a 3rd run-thru of all the chosen styles to pair items that will hang well together on our racks and put them into deliveries. Behind all of this, we are also evaluating what sizes & colors we think will sell, what styles have worked (or not worked) in the past, price points, and budget...
Organizing styles into deliveries at Fifteen Twenty
Once we have decided on what styles we like, we write out orders for all 3 locations including size breakdowns; colors if there is an option, and then make sure it fits in our allotted budget. On top of that, we take pics of each piece for reference and future planning purposes. While its exciting seeing all of the new styles and trends and picking our favorites, as you can tell, it can be quite challenging at times given the vast array of options and the amount of brands we have to go through this process with.
Checking out all the styles at Gentle Fawn
Ellie trying on a new brand to see if we like how it fits
Loads of denim at the DL1961 booth
We never know for sure if what we are choosing is going to be a hit or a miss, but if we stick with product that we know will fit the Lee&Birch brand and checks off all the boxes on our list of "qualifications", it has a good shot to be a hit.
If we can answer yes to all of these questions, a piece is 'qualified' to hang in an L&B store: Is it a quality we can stand behind? Is the feel of the fabric nice to the touch? Do at least 2 out of the 3 buyers like it? Can we name at least 3 customers in each store that would buy it?
Obviously, a lot more goes into buying a piece, but if we are ever on the fence about something, we ask ourselves all of the questions above and it always helps us come to a decision. We always hope we make the best choices that go with the style and quality our clients have learned to expect from us
After 8-10 hours of back-to-back appointments, our shopping day is done and it's time to unwind... We head straight to happy hour and meet up with friends and then treat ourselves to a fabulous dinner at one of the many wonderful restaurants in the city, which likely involves a bottle of wine and perhaps, occasionally, a little too much. If we're lucky and the timing is right, one of our nights will also include a broadway show and always ends in a nightcap at the hotel bar.
Happy hour drinks with friends!
View from our rooftop hotel bar
As soon as we finish our second day of shopping, we are headed to the airport for a late flight back home.
We are exhausted, but excited about all of the amazing pieces we have found and are already thinking of what is going to end up in our own closets in 6 months.
So there it is... Lots of fun and excitement, mixed with exhaustion and trepidation. We can't wait for you to see what we ordered for Fall 2018!