Have you ever thought it would be cool to be a gear buyer for a large outdoor retailer like Sierra Trading Post? It sounds like a pretty sweet job doesn't it? You get to see all the best outdoor gear, you make connections within the outdoor industry and you hang out at trade shows that are often known to have a party atmosphere.
I've spent the last few days trying my hardest to keep up with these guys and gals. Just keeping up with them isn't an easy task. They've got a full schedule with meetings booked from 8 am to 6 pm in half hour or one hour increments and they don't bother making time for lunch. After the show they have dinner meetings that often go late into the night then they have to get up and do it all over again. Here is what a day in the life of a Sierra Trading Post Buyer looks like at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show.
At 7:00 am the buyers and management team meets at the hotel for breakfast. The breakfast meeting is a casual breakfast where the buyers discuss the appointments they have for later in the day. Some meetings require multiple buyers to attend as each of them have a defined category that they buy for but many of the brands produce products that cross many buying categories. The breakfast discussion revolves around the schedule for the day and who is going to be at which meetings. Meanwhile, the buyers are eating as much food as possible to get them through a full day without lunch.
The Outdoor Retailer Show starts at 9 am but every morning our buying teams waits in the entry to meet their first appointment of the day. Buyers can access the show an hour early if they are accompanied by a brand representative. This gains an extra hour for meetings and gets us into the show before the crowds.
STP Buyer Steve Stone meets with Merrell
After the first meeting wraps up it is a quick dash to the next meeting which is often located all the way across the hall. Getting from one end of the Salt Palace to another can take some time with the crowds of the Outdoor Retailer plus these guys know so many people from building relationships with different brands for so many years that sometimes you've just got to stop and chat.
Our buying team arrives at the booth of the next appointment just in time. They head into a back conference room and dive directly into business. Each meeting is very interesting as we generally share numbers on our inventories of their products and how well they are selling. Since we are buying closeouts and excess inventory, we solve a problem for these brands and they like working with Sierra Trading Post.
In some meetings, after 25 or so minutes one of our buyers has to excuse themselves to head across the hall to another appointments. These guys have memorized their schedules but check their phones regularly to keep themselves on track.
Sierra Trading Post President, Gary Imig meets with Woolrich
Midway through the afternoon, an appointment has to cancel. Sierra Trading Post Buyer, Chris Rodgers says, "Cool, we've got some free time". I'm thinking he'll want to grab a bite to eat, spend some time chatting with an old friend or just sit down and relax but he says, "Let's check out the Ballroom".
The Ballroom at Winter OR is filled with new companies. These small start-up companies are hoping to land some deals with retailers to get their products in more stores. With the Sierra Trading Post's business model of selling excess inventory, there is not much we can do to help out these new companies but our buyers know how to spot a successful new product. They have an eye for innovation, good packaging and a brand story.
We walk through the Ballroom sifting through the different brands. Two or three have an interesting enough product for our buyer to listen to their brand story. While there isn't anything we can help them out with today, cards are exchanged and the relationship is started so they will think of Sierra Trading Post once the need for our services arise.
After a quick whirlwind through the new company section, it is back into the full on meeting schedule as we hustle across the trade show floor for yet another meeting.
When six o'clock hits the meetings come to an end. Work at the trade show is done for the day but our buying team's job is not complete. They have a list of emails to follow up on, spreadsheets to review and discussion to have with management. All this plus a business dinner with a key brand.
The next morning at 7 am breakfast they are back at it and talking about the emails they sent and spreadsheets they reviewed last night. I can't figure out how they got any sleep at all but they are ready to do it all over again day after day.
These men and women work very hard at these trade shows, it isn't the hanging out partying with vendors that you might imagine. Their hard work pays off because their relationships with the brands, negotiating techniques and knowledge of which products will be the most popular helps keep Sierra Trading Post stocked with the best products from the best brands and at a great deal.
Want to hear more about the 2013 outdoor Retailer Winter Market?
Hot New Gear from OR Part I
Hot New Gear from OR Part II
Outdoor Retailer: What's the Big Deal
A Day in the Life of a Sierra Trading Post Buyer at OR
By Andy Hawbaker
February 11, 2013
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