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Ecommerce Elite Melodie van der Baan shares her insights into fashion turns, navigating inventory post-Covid, and more expert advice. A self-declared, “lover of the fashion industry,” Melodie’s work as a retailer gave her an insight into some of the woes of inventory handling. She co-founded Swap Retail as a means to provide retailers a way to connect with each other and move inventory safely and efficiently.
Swap Retail is a B2B that helps other retailers navigate their inventory turn problems. With the unique and unprecedented economic environment of 2020, Melodie reflects on how essential it is for retailers to understand the difference between high sales and true profits.
Covid created a reality check for many shop-owners, as well as a glimpse at how important moving inventory is. Melodie is passionate about this topic, recalling that “I thought high sales meant being a good retailer when in reality, our profitability is how quickly inventory turns.” When doors closed with Covid, Melodie sought help of a planning company called Management One. “I got schooled with what is really going on with inventory! The big question is- how am I turning it?” That can be through sales, or through swapping it with another retailer- like Swap Retail. Focusing on turns enables owners to recycle money and get something else that will sell better.
In speaking with YFD owner Keith, Melodie points out that your shop door can’t be the only means of reaching customers. Finding additional sales channels online was essential to keep a business selling in 2020.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try
What works for all other boutiques might not work for yours- each audience is different. It sometimes takes some trial and error. Retailers sometimes ask themselves, “What products do people want?” when they should be asking, “What products do my customers want?” Understanding the change in demand enables a retailer to navigate shifts in their target audience and provide options that show them that, “we hear you.” Swap Retail enables retailers to offload excess retail if it isn’t performing. Don’t give up on a products and lose the sale!
Melodie’s favorite thing about her product is that every single sale helps two retailers. One is able to turn inventory, while the other is able to discover something that will work well for their region or audience. If your inventory isn’t selling- how do you get rid of it and get something else that does sell?
Melodie expressed the need to love the learning process and be okay with continual adjustments. Last year may have been exhausting for many, but the need to learn never goes away. Sharing within a community or industry enables us to learn from someone else’s mistakes so that you don’t have to make the same! To that end, Melodie states that nobody should be a lone soldier in this business.
You Have to Give to Get
Sometimes you’ve got to put money out there to get anything back.
It’s awesome to invest in a resource that will take your store to the next level. It’s awesome to have someone holding you accountable and saying, “Hey, how are you coming along with your goal.” Melodie tried 5 new things last year, and 3 didn’t work out. But the two that did have brought her forward.
Melodie warns retailers away from jumping into the e-commerce platform with people who will build a website then charge monthly “site maintenance” fees. You should have a website that is able to be run internally- with the exception of rare issues. Our goal at YellowFin Digital is to build a site that is simple enough to run yourself. Melodie cautions retailers that many companies out there are just poaching for an ongoing check. Keith adds a warning– do not pay the whole amount for creative services up front! Do your due diligence and know what you are getting into.
What is the Swap Retail process like?
It started as a concierge service, we would run it all by phone. From there it grew to an email blast, which was very labor intensive. After about a year, they went into production and automated the process to provide anonymity and handle all logistics on behalf of both retailers. Our goal is to sustain vendor relationships- it’s meant to be safe, anonymous, and easy.
We work with brands first and foremost to ensure that only authorized retailers can see that brand. Accounts are identified by brand. If you are authorized to sell a brand that is represented on Retail Swap, you already have an account. It all starts with the brand! And the bottom line is, that processes are easy when a brand cares more about people than their businesses.
What do you wish you knew before getting started?
Melodie says, “I wish I had the focus on inventory turns from day 1.” Sales can increase without profit increasing- so a shop that’s having increasing sales might be led to believe that they are also having increased profits when it isn’t the case! I wish I had known how important turns are over sales or inventory.