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For modern retailers, a unique product curation has never been more make-or-break. To create a standout shopping experience in the crowded, competitive market, many fashion players are leaning on experienced buyers.
Milan-born concept store 10 Corso Como, which opened its doors in 1990, has gained popularity among fashion and art fans for its one-of-a-kind assortment spanning rare photography books, designer home decor, private-label fashion and exclusive accessories collaborations. Prior to launching is first U.S. outpost, in NYC’s Seaport District in September, it scooped up Avery Oates, a fashion veteran who’s worked as a buyer for more than 20 years.
“We want to diversify and attract a different customer,” Oates said of her role. “We’re very diverse as a brand, going from art to objects. We strive constantly to create new collaborations and exclusive pieces.”
On the first episode of our limited series, Glossy Trend Watch: Buyer Edition, editor-in-chief Jill Manoff sits down with Oates to discuss the role of the modern retail buyer as shopping moves online, designers’ production shifts away from a seasonal calendar and consumers increasingly demand newness. Edited highlights below.
How to offer an exclusive experience online
“We’re launching our ecommerce properly in September. Our portal will be able to reflect more than what we do in our space. It was important to do things in baby steps, because we’re creating a brand name in the U.S. We’ve been talking to a new customer. It won’t take away from the fact that we’re still very much an offline destination. The whole ethos of pop-ups, exclusives and collaborations is so important to us. But I’m seeing players who said they’d never go online, and I see it happening. I think it’s inevitable. Getting all the brands online is a question of time. We want to offer the right platform of the right calibre and the right taste.”
How fashion’s shifts are affecting the retail floor
“The industry is constantly changing and looking for newness. In some ways, it’s reflective of what we’re doing. Our pop-ups are constantly changing. We’re giving more designers a platform. The shifting of the fashion calendar may change how we buy, but it won’t change our ethos. We try to do exclusives and collaborations so that we avoid [markdowns]. They’re not healthy. The way Gucci and Prada are doing no sales, it makes the customer think that their investment has a longer lifespan. Disposable clothing is not what we’re in the business of, and if we can move away from that, it’s a trend worth investing in.”
What it takes to be a strong buyer
“You need to be quick-response and flexible, always aware of the trends. This constant need for new exclusives has given designers the opportunity to be seen in a different light. Knowing your numbers is critical, along with having a great eye and a great gut feeling. Then developing relationships with the customer is important, because even though you’re a buyer, that end customer is why you still have a job.”