Fashion shows aside, the job of a retail buyer has its less glamorous facets.
It’s labor intensive, filled with footwork, paperwork, research and juggling open-to-buys, and it’s a profession plagued by high turnover.
“You really have to put in the hours. You need to be able to travel a lot and deal with a lot of detail,” said Kristin Savilia, a former buyer and now chief executive officer of Joor, a large digital business-to-business wholesale marketplace backed by venture capital firms Canaan and Battery.
“We sat and watched the Neiman’s buyers at work, listened to their needs, and they helped us develop what would be useful,” Savilia said. “We talked to other folks as well, but Neiman Marcus was our development partner. They drove the process. We chose to work with Neiman’s because the company has always been at the forefront of technology and has understood digital from early on.”
During a demonstration of the platform at Joor headquarters in New York, Savilia explained its benefits. “Rather than go to the market with Excel, a calculator, paper line sheets, carbon copy paper, everything you need to complete the buying process is on your iPad. You don’t need other tools. The majority of the industry is still using paper and Excel. That is what Joor can entirely replace.”
In addition, “You can see the marketplace on your terms. Rather than go online and view Kate Spade handbags by themselves, this tool allows you to see Kate Spade handbags next to Steve Madden footwear,” and other brands. “It gives you a better view, a global view” of what’s being bought by other buyers in the organization, rather than operating in a silo. For example, an apparel buyer can see what the footwear buyer is buying, resulting in a coordinated, collaborative approach to building the assortment and merchandising the selling floors. Or if the tops buyer is ordering metallic blouses from a brand, the buyer can view all the metallic items already shopped by other buyers in other categories.
The platform enables buyers to:
* Create a single cart to get a global perspective on what they bought across brands.
* Track open-to-buy on a real-time basis, so you know what’s been spent, and what’s left.
* Communicate with brands on customizing product fabrics and details and price changes.
* Discern which orders are earmarked for which retail doors.
* Provide photos taken with an iPad.
In addition, divisional and general merchandise managers can sign into the application to see the work done by their buyers, replacing old-fashioned style outs and style boards in conference rooms.
At Neiman’s, buyers have been using the Joor Retailer Platform since January. Savilia expects other retailers to subscribe later this year. Subscriptions are based on the size of the company and its level of usage. The platform functions on any web-enabled device. The native app is iPad but Android used can still use the web version.
While other digital platforms exist for buyers to use, they are built from the brand perspective, not from the retailer’s. Previously with Joor, buyers could go online to the Joor marketplace and order from brands, viewing line sheets from the likes of Kate Spade or Steve Madden.
Joor’s platform includes women’s apparel, accessories and shoes, and men’s apparel, accessories and shoes. Home brands will be added later this year.
“We see the platform as being useful for any assortment planning business,” Savilia said. Children’s and beauty are “on our road map but they’re not imminent.”
According to Savilia, through the Joor platform, the job of the buyer becomes faster and more efficient by eliminating the need for paperwork and manually loading order entries into the business system. Neiman’s buyers reported a 30 percent reduction in appointment time and a 40 percent increase in productivity, she said. “It’s one tool that replaces several tools, but you still [need] to be part of the market and visiting showrooms and trade shows.”
“We see Joor as an important tool to reduce friction in the purchase order process, freeing up merchant time to focus on driving assortment differentiation,” Johnson said. “We are based in Dallas but our buyers shop markets around the world. That market cycle is continuously happening. Not every brand shows their products at the same time. The Joor tool allows them to keep pace with that. It empowers the natural talent in the buyer, rather than focusing on data entry. It manages the scale and complexity [of the job].
“When this increased efficiency is coupled with improved real-time visibility into buying decisions, we believe there is tremendous potential to not only improve sales and margins, but, more importantly, to improve the customer experience.”