Which goods are ordered must be well considered. Even before Corona, slow-moving goods or unsold stock cost retailers a lot of money, space and, not least, nerves. Can this be avoided? Most likely not, but our OnSight Analytics tool is happy to help reduce it to a minimum. To ensure that it is developed further in an increasingly optimized way, we regularly exchange ideas with experts from a wide range of fields. This time with Sandra Repking, an all-round expert in purchasing. She tells us what the market analysis originally looked like, how a tool can help and gives tips on how to use it.

Dear Sandra, you worked in purchasing for many years and are now a consultant for companies in the fashion industry. Tell us a bit about your career.

Sandra Repking: I’ve been in the industry since I was a child, so to speak, because I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My parents come from the fashion trade, so I already specialized in this field of business when I graduated from high school. I directly did a classical apprenticeship in retail. After I finished my textile business studies, I worked in numerous companies. I was in the discount sector, in the luxury sector, in the mid fashion sector, I did multi-channel, video shopping, classic mail order, classic stationary retail, brand industry, production… I developed countless collections, had them produced and then marketed them. This gave me a real all-round view.

In 2007, I then decided to take the plunge and become self-employed. By now I advise a wide variety of companies in the fashion lifestyle industry. My main topics are strategy, product range optimization and branding.

What excited you so much about purchasing that you specialized in it?

What excites me about purchasing is the diversity, the whole mix. Purchasing never works alone: not without sales, not without marketing. I have to understand the customer in order to be good at purchasing and find the right products for them. It has a lot to do with communication, with suppliers, with sales colleagues. I have to convince a lot of people of my idea.

Then I also have to be able to do the math. After all, everything has to be economically sound. So the work in purchasing is creative, varied, international, organizational, etc. It’s category management. You almost can’t get any more varied than that. There’s everything in it – and that’s what excites me about it.

How do you stay up to date with trends and order the right products in good time?

The most important thing is to obtain information. That’s not difficult these days, because there’s a lot of information out there. That means I have to be able to sort out what information is really relevant and helpful, and what is just informational waste. I don’t think there’s any one right, universal formula for staying up to date with trends.

From my point of view, the most important thing is to have a feeling for which trend is relevant for my customer now. I have to think about how to interpret this trend for my customers. That’s why the most important thing is to know your customers. Only after that comes the trend.

In today’s fast-paced online world, how flexible is purchasing really? How quickly can you react to changes in the market, such as Corona?

Purchasing is integrated into a system. As a result, not every company’s purchasing department is the same. Of course, everything depends on production times, on processes in the company: How quickly do I get new products and collections developed, how quickly is that implemented, how long does it take for my sales department to have everything present? It also depends on raw materials and a few other components.

Corona is a particularly difficult issue because it’s not a regional issue, it’s a global issue. Even if I had a plan myself, there would still be the problem that my producers, supply chains, transport routes, etc. would also be affected. This pandemic is a huge challenge. But of course there are suppliers who implement very quickly.

I believe that, regardless of whether it’s a pandemic or whatever challenges we face, it’s first and foremost about what moves my customers. I may be repeating myself here, but you have to have a feel for your customers and their wishes and needs. Example: If everyone is in the home office now, then it’s clear that I don’t need as many high heels in my collection, or that evening gowns might not run as well. When people are all sitting in front of the computer, you don’t necessarily see what they’re wearing waist down. That’s when I know they’re more likely to wear comfortable shoes and possibly sweatpants. Purchasing and assortment creation means that I have to put myself in people’s shoes. In this respect, I always, always, always have to observe.