March ’21 Retail Report: Buying Strategies To Fuel Your Recovery

The Big Picture

U.S. consumer confidence is up, reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic in early March, thanks to the quickening rollout of vaccinations and third round of economic stimulus, according to data from the University of Michigan.

March retail sales have also notched up, after a 3% overall decline in February, as more states opened up to business and weather warmed.

Among our better menswear and women’s wear stores we have seen a marked improvement over the past few weeks, with some women’s wear operations in particular reaching or exceeding 2019 levels. For the full spring season, through July, plans are just 10% off 2019, as the recovery gains steam.

Fall Plans

As we look to fall we continue to make adjustments to plans due to changing sales patterns. While menswear continues to trend towards casual and active categories overall (there is some pent-up demand for suits and tuxes due to delayed weddings and special events), women’s wear is going in the opposite direction. 

After a year at home women are reinvesting in dresses, handbags, and shoes for going out. We expect this trend to extend in the fall and holiday season given that there will be many more dressy events, as art and entertainment venues reopen and social life starts to resume.

New Buying Strategies

At the start of the pandemic we talked about the strategy of buying and holding inventory before you release it to ship. This gives you the opportunity to gauge demand and timing without losing out on merchandise. This is especially important now when merchandise is harder to come by. If you wait to buy in-season you will miss out.

Of course, holding merchandise requires good communication with your vendors, but it’s a pandemic strategy that should become permanent.

Another important strategy for upcoming seasons is to buy at the top of your range. This will set you apart from other retailers and allow you to differentiate yourself with a depth of specialty merchandise.

So, if the top of your range is $1,000, buy a majority of inventory at this price point. If the top your range is $500, do the same. Not only will your merchandise stand out, but you will also achieve better margins. After all, we know that we rarely lose demand at the top end.

Blacks’ Bottom Line

Evolve your business with new inventory strategies: hold and release and buy at the top of your range.