Karen Alberg Grossman

Editor’s letter: vendors need follow-up

by Karen Alberg Grossman
Portrait of Karen for MR Magazine

As you might imagine, I get my best insights into menswear business from those in the trenches. So, from sellers on the floor, here’s what I’m hearing!

Manufacturers who are downsizing are not replacing their road reps or else they’re hiring young people who don’t have the same passion for the business. So, what happens, according to retailers, is that vendors make the initial sale but there’s no follow-up. Explains one longtime sales associate from a nice menswear store on the east coast: “They never call to see what sold and what didn’t, or if more inventory is needed. I guarantee that a simple follow-up call would generate additional business but clearly, brands need us less and less. Where we have a strong vendor rep (multi-brand or otherwise), we do more business. Even a simple phone call at the end of the week, wishing me a nice weekend and asking if I need to fill-in sizes, always generates an order.”

Others recall the “good old days” when enthusiastic multi-rep salesmen would regularly pop-in to the store to sell, schmooze, and promote new items. “Out of need or out of friendship,” recalls one merchant, “we’d always buy something. These guys are now retired and out of the picture and it’s become a very lonely business, especially with declining store traffic.”

I maintain that in-store sales associates are guilty too, with most staring down at their phones rather than engaging with customers. “I’m not sure how brick-and-mortar stores will survive,” laments one store manager. “We can’t find good help, millennials don’t want to work in our store. So even with great presentations, the energy on the selling floor is no longer palpable.”