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Commentary: The Business

Jennifer Gandia: Client First

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The Business: Client First

When retailer-vendor relationships are based on what’s best for the customer, everyone wins.

BY JENNIFER GANDIA

Published in the January 2014 issue

Put a group of retailers together, and inevitably the conversation turns to vendors and inventory, and it’s clear that most of us are dissatisfied with the majority of those relationships.

When buying a new collection we hear, “This is a partnership.” Then we begin a conversation about co-op and stock-balancing or get a copy of their terms, and usually the policies will favor one entity: the vendor.

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Retailers are responsible for promoting and selling new collections, so there’s an investment in inventory, staff and marketing. Yet, even with fancy reports and talented buyers, those pieces sitting in our cases more than three to six months are dead. Our clients have voted, and they don’t want them! Regular clients don’t want to see the same jewelry in our cases every time they come into our stores.

The problem is, how can we keep inventory fresh with the limits and conditions levied on us by our vendors and brands? There needs to be a paradigm shift in this industry so that stores can have the right inventory at the right time. We are in a world of fast fashion, where our customer expects new products regularly, and stores lose sales by not having them.

I have a problem with most of the vendor terms and conditions policies I see. They share a fatal flaw: They are not customercentric. From how you can use your co-op dollars to whether you can put an item on sale to stockbalancing, they’re nothing more than vendor protection policies. Some companies have become so inflated with their ideas of brand protection that they are in essence tying the hands of their retailers and treating us as if we are lucky to carry their lines. That is hardly partnership and calls for no mutual accountability.

We must ask ourselves, “Who am I spending my money with?” and “Is this a true partnership?”

If it skews too far in favor of the vendor/brand and they won’t negotiate, it’s time to walk away. There is too much demand on retailers to provide a superior level of service to our clients; we deserve that same respect from our vendors. We must define our own terms and conditions as they pertain to the health of our business and what we need to do to satisfy our end consumer.

I am not suggesting a partnership be built with the retailers’ needs put first. Vendor-retailer relations must be built by a set of standards both can live by.

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The most revolutionary idea I have heard of recently is by a designer who will buy back a piece from a store holding it more than 90 days if there’s a request for that item from another store. Talk about a paradigm shift! As a result of this action, that piece has now sold, the designer produces more new pieces, and customers get to see fresh inventory from that designer. Genius! And all it took was looking at the problem of aged merchandise in a new way and the desire to find a solution that benefits all.

It’s time to put clients at the heart of decisions made regarding vendors and inventory.

Jennifer Gandia is co-owner and creative director of Greenwich Jewelers in New York, NY. She can be reached at [email protected]

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