by Steve Pruitt

Q: Mr. Pruitt, one of the advantages of not going to the markets in the last year has been the cost savings. What are your thoughts on virtual buying versus in-person buying?

Steve Pruitt: This is a pertinent question. I have discussed this with retailers often since the markets closed last year and we had no choice but to buy virtually. Generally, merchants want to go back to in-person markets. Many of our client stores have been in-market over the last two weeks and loved it.

But I must say that the virtual process has improved greatly. For instance, the new product review process now includes swatch samples sent to the store.

Also, the cost savings should not be overlooked, especially now while we’re recovering. Costs associated with travel are high in many markets, and this savings can allow stores to build capital back into their businesses.

Another clear advantage to virtual buying is purchasing from vendors in Europe that do not come to the States. If you do not travel to Europe (and most of our clients do not) you can now see and buy lines that were not available before.

But, I also understand that human interaction is very important; evenings out with vendors and retail friends often lead to great exchanges of information. This extra information is particularly important as you look for new brands. And, as I always suggest, when in-market it’s essential that you schedule time to visit local stores for inspiration.

I believe there is room for both in-person and virtual buying. It’s likely you will still use virtual platforms while you’re in market for ordering. The virtual platforms are integrated into many cloud-based inventory systems, making generating purchase orders easier.

So, to answer your question, I believe buying will be like returning to the office in that we are likely heading toward a hybrid model. We will go to markets and use virtual platforms for buying.

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    1. Totally agree. I would also add that by utilizing the digital assets we create, retailers can peruse and start the buying process at any time that is convenient for them. They don’t have to make an appointment for x date at x time. They can have insomnia, wake up and take a look. We are eager to be getting back to market and see our retailers in person, but gone are the days when you would see the same buyers in NY, Paris, Vegas and Chicago, you can choose one or two that are the most relevant and peruse digitally the shows and brands you don’t have time to see in person. For me as an agent, I find hope that all these changes will lead us to having an overall better experience for everyone!

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