Rising to prominence in the 1990s and driving fashion retail ever since, fashion buyers are experts in dealing with the highly complex nature of market shifts. They are responsible for establishing brand recognition and meeting a set profit margin by refining product portfolios in terms of price, style and assortment.
According to Gianvito D’Onghia, professor of Fashion Buying and Marketing at the renowned fashion school Istituto Marangoni, fashion buyers have to be extremely familiar with their brand’s style as well as the different marketing channels. This allows them to always keep their company a step ahead of the market trend. Fashion buyers should also be highly organised and have strong analytical skills in order to draw up development plans for each product and achieve a specific profit margin per store or client.
Fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M are currently extremely popular in China. The secret behind Zara’s success in amassing such customer loyalty lies in its expansive range of products. Fashion buyers play a major role in the brand’s success as they analyse the sales performance from stores and adjust designs and goods accordingly on a daily basis, allowing Zara to refresh its offerings as fast as twice a week.
Regional brands currently account for a large portion of the jewellery retail market in mainland China. One of the reasons their cross-market expansion often ends in failure is their lack of understanding of local preferences. This is where buyers step in. Based on their profound knowledge and deep understanding of each regional market, buyers can point out the shortcomings of the product portfolio and make suggestions for improvement. They can also help the brand identify target client groups and maintain a consistent image.
While seasonal sales, a central element of fashion retail, are not as pivotal in the jewellery industry, it is still crucial for jewellers to have a fashion buyer to help refine their offerings. For instance, when launching a traditional bracelet, the brand could also roll out seasonal accessories such as different types of matching beads. This may open up new sales opportunities where people may buy the bracelet because of the beads. With jewellery increasingly being correlated with fashion where consumers seek new products every season, jewellery brands may want to consider offering seasonal lines.
Fashion buyers are not exclusive to big companies. It is, in fact, easier for small establishments to have an in-house buyer because of their simpler company structure. More importantly, having a buyer results in a more systematic workflow, which is beneficial for a brand’s long-term development, remarked D’Onghia.
For this system to work though, company heads must have an open mind, he added. They should realise that times have changed and the old ways of doing things may no longer work in the present scenario. D’Onghia identified this resistance from top management as the main hurdle facing many traditional jewellery companies in Shenzhen, and suggested that company leaders should empower executives such as fashion buyers who can bring about positive change.
“This will be a challenge for the boss, but they need to realise that their management expertise covers a single field, as opposed to a fashion buyer’s multi-dimensional background and skills. Having a fashion buyer ensures a company’s long-term stability and development,” he said.
The jewellery industry is experiencing rapid change in consumer tastes and business conditions. With the market shifting its focus from value to design, jewellers need to adjust their product portfolio and strategies. Valuable lessons can be learned from the fashion industry where fashion buyers play a strategic role in keeping brands relevant.