SHOP TALK

Byline: GEORGIA CAMP

Sales Rep: Marty Ogburn
Showroom: 11S114
Base: Atlanta
Years in Business: 18
Q: What is your view of the marketplace today?
A: Change is the word I use to describe the marketplace. Channels of distribution continue to change as the majors continue to merge, and mass merchants and discounters begin to offer branded merchandise. Interactive video programs that sell clothing are even on the horizon. Specialty retailing as we know it is changing as retailers become smarter, more effective business people who are learning to anticipate the impact of these changes and to better compete with the new distribution channels.
The great news is that amidst all this change, consumers continue to buy clothing. That means there will remain an important place for smart wholesalers and retailers who know their business and their customers.
Q: How can specialty retailers respond to these changes and become even more successful as a result?
A: Being special is the key. Specialty retailers must offer something different than the competition, no matter what distribution channel it may be. They can’t afford to continue to offer the same lines…those “big” names that may have been an important part of their inventory in seasons past. They must constantly seek new lines that will mean something to their customers, which of course means they must know their customers. Even if they don’t need new product, retailers should come to market and use the time to search for new lines.
Niche marketing is another smart move for specialty retailers. By that I mean grasping an area the competition isn’t known for and developing it through a deep, narrow inventory.
Q: What about sales reps? How can they remain profitable through these changes?
A: Sales reps must know their customers. They must identify and attract new lines that their customers need by constantly seeking new products. They can’t sit back and wait to lose a line to identify a new one, which is what many tend to do. Sales reps should look for merchandise that hasn’t saturated the market and should make sure it’s merchandise that will appeal to their customer base.
Q: What do you consider your role to be in terms of the retailer?
A: I work for the retailer. It’s my job to offer the retailer the merchandise she needs and to follow the sale up with service. My bottom line is to help the retailer make her [bottom line] better.
Q: What can retailers do to make your job easier?
A: Simply be truthful and allow me to assist them in building their business. If they have a credit problem, for example, tell me, and maybe I can help them work through it with my manufacturers.
Q: What are retailers buying?
A: Lifestyle dressing is a trend that can’t be overlooked. More and more corporations are responding with casual Fridays and other programs. Analysts say it will continue through the Nineties. Retailers are responding by seeking out more casual “lifestyle dressing” resources.
Q: You are the past president and a current board member of the Atlanta Betterwear Association. What is the role of that organization?
A: Our organization exists to make business better for its membership and the marketplace, including retailers, as a whole. Recently, working with the Southeastern Travelers Exhibitors organization, we completed a series of “Think Tank” meetings to identify opportunities for business growth.