This is seen by some to be the most tricky part of a retail manager/buyer ‘s job! How do you get the balance between different products right, do you worry about losing sales because you don’t have the right products to sell? What price point, what colours, what style? It is partly instinct but it has to be based on FACTS and here is how you do that:

How do you start?

We are not talking here about sticking your logo on souvenirs; this is about buying and developing products that will resonate with your visitors and provide that ‘piece to take away’ that they want when they’ve been inspired by a collection or had really good day out with the family.

Here’s the first part of a simple guide to buying and product development which should help you avoid the pitfalls of buying too much stock or paying too much for artwork. This is part of an e book being developed by us which we believe will become the definitive guide and handbook for Heritage and Tourism retailers in the UK. It will cover product development, stock levels, buying generic products, merchandising for profit and many other key points for success.

First of all you need to really understand your customer, gather the FACTS don’t listen to hearsay, use every tool available to you to get to the truth, ticketing, marketing, surveys, headcounts – whatever it takes you need to really KNOW your customers and their needs.

Making your customer map

Who will buy your products? Discuss with your marketing team or use your own knowledge of your site and group your visitors according to age, gender, nationality, and demographic profile. So, if you get a lot of students, are they mainly male or female or evenly split? If the silver brigade is your most common visitor do they come in coachloads, couples, ladies who lunch, or interest groups? Do you get Mums with prams, school children etc. It’s important to identify these groups because they all buy different types of products.

Next look at your groups and decide which ones are mainly repeat visitors and which are mainly tourists. Do you have a Friends group, are you often visited by ‘experts’ in your subject? All these factors influence the type of product you will develop. Make a list of the various groups you have identified and put a rough percentage of the overall visitors which that group represents. This is a brilliant guide to ALL the product you buy – not just the bespoke.

Team training session

  • Identify your groups starting with the largest first and make a table of data like this (use a wipe board first):

  • Discuss the type of products that might appeal to each group and put that list in the last column. Don’t limit yourself to the stock you have be creative!
  • Now you have a visual ‘map’ of your visitor’s needs. Discuss whether your current stock meets the needs of the list and if you have the balance of products right according to the percentage of visitors each group represents.
  • If you have EPoS you can run a value of stock ‘by department’ to compare. Don’t go off your historic sales – if you haven’t had the right stock in it couldn’t have sold. Maybe you think that stationery could be as much as 20% of your sales according to the map? If you only have 10% of your stock in stationery it may not reach its potential.

The outcome is often surprising! Your team will enjoy this – especially your volunteers. Remember you can use your ticket sales to establish the balance of visitors too. The more facts and less guessing the more useful your map. In my next blog I will show you how to decide on your ‘themes’ and to how make a ‘mood board’ for each of those themes and decide on the products (which fit with the map), that will sit at the core of your product development. For more useful tips and training, news and features visit www.secondaryspend.com