In retail, buyers are queen and king. They create the compelling assortments that make brands what they are. They have a keen eye for fashion, and they can spot the trends. And they know how to negotiate with vendors to get products delivered on budget and on time.
Buyers are the lifeblood of fashion retail, but their talents and skills often go to waste because so much of their time is taken up performing manual tasks.
They have to manually chase down information like historical sales and forecasts. They wait for their spreadsheets to crunch numbers. They enter data for management roll-ups. They spend hours making storyboards. And they transcribe data from their buy plans to initiate purchase orders.
All of this adds up to hours and hours, every week, that your buyers aren’t doing the skilled job they were hired for.
See also: Are Your Buyers On The Same Page?
If you’re wasting your buyers’ talents on manual tasks, it’s time to cut that out. Here are seven things you need to automate for your buyers right now:
1. Access to sales data
How do your buyers access historical and in-season sales data? If they need to go to a separate application or wait for an emailed report to come in, it’s horribly inefficient. Buyers need to be able to see sales data right within their buy plan, without having to seek it out. They’ll be more efficient and make better decisions, too.
2. Buy tailoring
What happens if a buyer wants to purchase a product only for a subset of your stores? How do they do the math to figure out what quantity to buy? If they’re breaking out a calculator or waiting for their spreadsheet to update, it’s taking too long. Buyers deserve to be able to tailor buys to groups of stores with a click of a button, without waiting or doing math by hand.
3. Management roll-ups
How do your buyers prep for a roll up? Is it their job to take the data from their buy plan and enter it in a separate spreadsheet so management can get a look at the overall picture? How long does it take each buyer to do that data entry? Roll-ups should happen automatically, so that buyers aren’t wasting time on data entry, and managers don’t have to wait.
4. Purchase orders
Here’s another manual data entry time waster. When it’s time to initiate a purchase order, what do your buyers do? If they’re opening a separate application and entering details by hand, they’re wasting time on busy work – and risking expensive typos. Buyers should be able to click a button to initiate a purchase order, and skip the typing. It saves time, and ensures purchase orders match up with buy plans.
What’s the process when your buyers want to see their assortments together? If everyone gathers up their samples and heads to the weekly styleout meeting, they get to see the full assortment in one place. But styleout meetings don’t help you visualize each of your clusters. Buyers need to be able to pull up a dynamic storyboard that shows them what each store will look like, any time they want to see it.
6. Product mix analysis /Attributes
When you’re working on a season, how do you know what the product mix looks like? Do you have enough of the right colors, fabrics, and styles? Getting it wrong can have a detrimental effect on your assortment. Buyers (and managers) need to be able to see the product mix or attributes at a glance.
7. Market discoveries
When buyers go to shows, they find great new styles, ideas and inspiration. But they can’t save all the details in a place that works with their buy plan. Going through old notes to find a style is a huge time waster, especially when decisions need to be made quickly. Buyers need to be able to save information and access it on a whim.
Featured resource: Five Ways to Fix Your Assortment Planning
Our research shows that automating manual tasks for buyers can improve productivity by 25% – that’s a week out of every month spent hunting down information and performing data entry.
A buyer who is stretched too thin isn’t going to be an effective decision maker. Buyers need to have time in their day to do important work. They need to be able to spend time evaluating purchase decisions, negotiating with vendors, and ensuring your assortment is absolutely perfect.
Don’t make your buyers waste time on data entry when there are more important things at stake. Take advantage of automation technology and get these seven manual tasks off of your buyers’ plates.