Planning Your Product Range – Workshop Report
On the 29 of March 2011 we ran the Making It workshop Planning Your Product Range led by Rosey Blackmore, Head of Merchandising and Buying at Waddesdon Manor. The workshop aimed to uncover the mysteries of how major stores buy products, what you need to be aware of when developing a range and how to take an idea into a retail-ready product. Maker, Clara Breen (work pictured)reports back from the workshop below.
by Clara Breen, designer-maker at Cockpit Arts
Rosey started off by talking about Jane Shepherdson, the businesswoman responsible for Topshop’s revival. Shepherdson believes really successful businesses have creativity at their heart and used this to great effect by using guest personalities to design ranges for Topshop.
Waddesdon Manor is a 1880 National Trust property housing Victorian artefacts from the Rothschild family’ collection. As Rosey said in our session, Waddesdon Manor: “is a cultural destination, therefore the shop should be as fabulous as the collection on display here.”
She approached the Royal College of Art in 2008 to collaborate with the current Applied Arts students, asking them to create products inspired by the collection. This collaboration has now been running for four years. These exclusive products are contemporary yet have strong heritage and craft references and they have been highly successful in raising the profile of Waddesdon Manor, creating plenty of press interest. New students are selected each year, and the yearly productions seem to have a strong following.
Rosey was previously Head of Buying and Merchandising for Tate Enterprises for many years. Initially the shops at Tate were stocking very few products, mostly books and postcards and Rosey was involved in commissioning many successful product ranges, often responding to a very specific brief, for a specific audience (families visiting from outside London, teenagers, etc.). Particularly iconic are the beautiful utilitarian textiles created by Ally Capellino. These clearly have appealed to the art-conscious or budding artists, as they have now been in production for 10 years.
She went on to share a few tips with us which I’d like to pass on to other designer-makers:
Range planning, why does it matter?
- To create a range that has the best chance of being successful.
- Buyers usually look to manage their supplier base, so they buy a range from each supplier, not just one product. They often aim to have as few suppliers as possible.
- Think strategically: Buyers and journalists are always looking for new things. Create a buzz around new products, OR a new presentation of the same product.
Considerations on range planning
- Customer demands and opportunities. What do you know? Make sure the market informs your design.
- Think hard about who is your customer. Who is going to buy this?
- Keep up with trends! What have you spotted? Successful products often fit in a current trend.
- Think about price structure: “good – better- best” price points for different budgets and expectations. Also, have clear prices: why should this be more expensive?
- Offer a balanced range: enough options and choice. Yet not too many to manage.
- Strong visual impact: changes of scale and colour. Have one striking item that draws the display together. Visually arresting colour, too.
Hot tips for approaching buyers!
- Always follow up by email after interest was shown.
- Don’t be disheartened if there is no instant decision.
- You can send gentle reminders now and again, but DON’T bombard!
- Do think creatively and approach specific locations directly. If you think your work would fit, suggest an idea for a custom-made product.
Making the most of fairs
- Have all your info ready and printed for a buyer to take away.
- Have a small visual reminder, printed to take away (such as a business card that can be stapled to notebook)
- Arresting display is vital
- Be sure everything is clearly priced to avoid embarrassment
- State clearly your lead times and payment terms
I found the workshop extremely useful as a designer-maker myself, interested in knowing how to approach range planning and buyers. Rosey Blackmore was an engaging and candid speaker and it was fascinating to hear the other side of the story, from the Buyer’s perspective.
If you are a designer-maker running your own business and have found this information useful find out more about other Cockpit Arts Making It Workshops and Seminars we run or read more top tips from industry experts.
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