The History of Who Buys and Why

By Mercedes Gonzalez, owner Global Purchasing Companies

Mercedes GonzalezIt’s not just about trends
Besides knowing what is on-trend, fashion retailers need to understand consumer behavior. Knowing why people buy, what they buy, and how much they are willing to spend (known as consumer price resistance), means understanding where consumers’ values truly lie.

For example, during the financial crisis 2008, people were losing their homes and jobs, but designer shoes, which start at $800, never dipped in sales. Consumers gave up expenses like going out for lunch or taking taxis, but they were not giving up their shoes. They even started shopping at fast fashion retailers, like Zara, and pairing $100 dresses with designer shoes and bags. And guess what? That high-low chic worked and looked great.

But was high-low chic an iconic look of the new millennium? If we take a close look at the whole time period, we see that the common denominator was actually comfort. Every year there was a new crisis: Y2K, 9/11, SARS, the war in Iraq and Anthrax. You get the picture. In times of crisis, people look for comfort; in their clothing (bamboo fabrics), in their footwear (Crocs) and in food. People stopped going out as much and entertained at home. That became the new normal.

Seeing the future
As we examine fashion in this decade, consumers are becoming fatigued on many fronts. Fast fashion is slowly but steadily losing traction. People are tired of walking into a room where everyone is wearing almost the same thing. They are dissatisfied with poor craftsmanship and thinking more about social responsibility when making purchases. They are spending dollars on well-crafted and limited-production items that have an interesting design direction.

Another area of fatigue is the sad or guilt story. Consumers do value items that are ethically made, but there is concern for how genuine these claims are. Even Made-in-the-U.S.A. claims have come into question over items like watches that are assembled in the U.S. but contain parts made overseas.

Which brings me to consumer price resistance. As a rule, it doesn’t matter what things cost you to buy, it only matters what the consumer is willing to pay. There are many factors that go into that judgement, especially the story behind the product. Today’s consumer sees buzz words like “fair trade,” “eco friendly” and “sustainable,” and labels with the maker’s name and photo as the new normal and expects them to be value-adds that don’t correlate to an increase in price. Think about an organic tomato merchandised at Whole Foods in a wood cart with locally made, fresh mozzarella and a hand-painted sign of the farm’s name. You pay top dollar for it because of the story you perceive from the display. Now did you know that Walmart also carries organic tomatoes but at probably half the price?

My end-of-the-year predictions
Boutique retail businesses are thriving. U.S. consumers are not necessarily money-poor, but time-poor. They expect an expert to attend to them during the shopping experience and will pay for it. Investing in properly training your sales staff will be important.
It’s also an election year, and sales typically drop more than normal during the October before the vote. Plan fun, in-store events to help draw customers in, like a how-to workshop that shows them how a favorite summer dress can be layered up for use in winter. I also warn you not to post the slightest hint of anything political.

On the flip side, November should really be an excellent month. Remember, retail is a form of therapy. Consumers who feel relieved from the election will…guess what…go shopping to celebrate, and people who feel sad and depressed over the election, well, they’ll go shopping too. Plan your OTB accordingly.

One last note. Don’t guilt consumers into a purchase. Give them real reasons to buy as opposed to making them feel like they’re doing charity work. Extended store hours, local delivery service, exclusive or limited-edition items, gift wrapping, are just a few touches that bring real value to shopping at your store.

Hear Mercedes Gonzalez speak at August Atlanta Apparel. Visit to add her seminars to your Market Plan:
Thursday, August 4:
10:30 a.m. ǀ Capturing the Social Occasion Market
3:30 p.m. ǀ Retail Math

Friday, August 5:
10:30 a.m. ǀ Sweet 15 (Quinceañera)

Our Retail Experts Panel is Today! Meet panelist Shirley Fraser.

Shirley Fraser is our final retail expert sitting on today’s panel, What Success Looks Like Now – Behind the Scenes of Bridal Retailing. Shirley was born in China, raised in Taiwan and later became a U.S. citizen. When she first came to the Atlanta area in the early 1980s, she followed her passion for style and design and started her own fashion line, featuring her unique leather designs.

Shirley opened Bravura, her first store, in 1988 as a way to market her own designs, as well as other high-end manufacturers. The store carried the full spectrum of women’s apparel, from sportswear and ready-to-wear to cocktail and black tie dresses.

In the mid-1990s, Shirley switched the focus of Bravura and began to increase the selection of gowns available for special occasions such as proms, pageants and homecoming dances. Over the last few years, Bravura has become synonymous with the prom market. The thousands of high quality and stylish dresses to choose from are known to young ladies, not only in the Atlanta area, but in Chattanooga, Birmingham, Macon and across the Southeast.

Bravura may have changed over the years, there are currently three locations, but Shirley has never forgotten that service and selection has been the secret to running her business. Customers continue to return for the personal attention they receive and the in-house alterations that gave the company its motto “Your special occasion is our special concern.”

The experts panel begins at 4:30 p.m. on the 2nd floor of Building 3. Get there early to secure your seat.

Shop & Learn with Area Rugs this July

Loloi-showroomAmericasMart® Atlanta is the number one resource for the area rug industry, featuring the nation’s largest collection of handmade, machine-made, new and antique area rugs in every style at every price point under one roof.

Beyond product and presentation, AmericasMart strives to provide a comprehensive experience for all buyers and exhibitors. As part of an overall commitment to helping retailers and exhibitors grow and develop better business skills, The Education Center continues to provide highly specialized, radically different and non-traditional learning opportunities.

Here’s what we have on tap for July: 


TIME: 11 A.M. – NOON

Don’t want to charge too much for your product but still want to make a profit? Join Andy Fried, Business Consultant at Kennesaw State University, for an educational seminar. In this class, you’ll learn pricing tactics and strategies for area rugs that increase profits and are easy as one, two, three! Fried has more than enough experience – 25 years to be exact – to be considered a “business guru.” His knowledge in the financial and retail sectors are sure to give you the right advice you need to maximize your profits.


TIME: 2:30-3:30 P.M.

Do you know the difference between a handmade rug and one that is machine made? Can you tell the difference between an Oushak and a Kilim? How do you know how if the price is right on your area rug? Think of this session as an “area rug 101” class. AmericasMart will provide you with all the info, including proper content, terminology and pricing structures. This panel discussion, made up of four of the world’s biggest area rug manufacturers, will ease your mind as you glide into area rug professionalism.


TIME: 1:30-2:30 P.M.

For those who are crazy about HGTV, we’ve got the right tour guide for you! Chip Wade, known as the carpenter on the Atlanta team of Designed to Sell, will lead you through the Home center to preview themed design showcases using area rugs as inspiration. Wade’s passion for design and the execution of large-scale remodels make him the perfect inspiration to show how to set the tone for your entire design concept in any room. Wade will also highlight many Home center showrooms, where you can find rugs, furnishings and accents to polish off the look.

June is All About Color!

AmericasMart is offering TWO great seminars during Market Wednesday on June 1, 2011.

In Living Color
Color expert Rebecca Ewing of the Color Marketing Group will show you how color unconsciously affects feeling, behavior and physiology. Learn to use these predictable and universal color responses to attract, inspire and compel customers and clients.
This seminar is worth .2 CEU credits.
TIME: 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
LOCATION: Home Furnishings Center, Building 1, Floor 14 Seminar Room
Coffee and muffins will be served. 

bmcolorBenjamin Moore Color Pulse
Join Randy Smith of Benjamin Moore as he presents the upcoming color trends for interiors and exteriors.
TIME: 1 – 2 p.m.
LOCATION: Living. Outdoor/Indoor.® The Gardens.®, Building 2 WestWing, Floor 10 Seminar Room
Coffee will be served.


Seating is limited. For more information and to RSVP, contact:
Meagan Maron: 404.220.2104 or 

And while you’re here…
Refresh, Renew and Reenergize your store or client’s home with the latest in home furnishings, gift, gardens and more when you shop Market Wednesday in Buildings 1, 2 and 2 WestWing.

Icing on the Cake: “Bundle Up” for Greater Profits

TJReid2(I was inspired to do this article after visiting my daughter’s store, RUBY,  where I noticed how many little items she had tied together with ribbon as a “set.”  There were several bracelets together, panty packs of two, three or five, a package of three tees, etc.  The pricing was even numbered like $10, $20, etc. and as a shopper I could realize how quick and easy this choice could be. It seemed especially effective for the Valentine shopping season in progress.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt the need to share “bundling up” for better profits with each of you!)

All of us enjoy a sweet deal, by just like icing on the cake, it can be overdone.  Bundling is a delicate blend of ingredients that:

*Sweetens the deal for your customers
* Increases your average sale
* Boosts your employees’ productivity
*Reduces your risks

If you are considering bundling, ask yourself these questions:

1) What are some of the challenges shoppers face in buying clothing
Some folks are color blind or have no fashion sense. They are in a hurry and forget to buy the related purchases they need. They long for help in making    decisions.  A bundle is already combined and ready – no choice.

2) What can I bundle together to make life easier for my customers?
Shoes and Handbags
Assorted Accessories that mix/match
Hosiery for the outfit
Socks for the shoes
Tees with Jeans
Tops w/suits
Slippers with robes
Panties with bras
7 panties (one for each day)
Basic tees set (red, black, white)
Lip gloss and mirror
Gloves & scarf
Anything that makes sense together or fills a need!

3) What benefits would buyers gain from bundles?
Customers would save time, whether shopping for themselves or a gift, they would find things easier. A bundle usually adds more versatility and functionality to a wardrobe by mixing and matching. Shoppers usually think a bundle is a better deal and they feel good about saving.

4) What benefit would the retailer gain from this?
Total sales should increase. Multiples units would be sold. Customers would appreciate the creativity and novelty of the combination.
Employee’s productivity should go up because they will generate more sales dollars per customer.

Look around, what goes together as the perfect bundle in your store?

Learn even more and be further inspired at TJ’s seminar at the Apparel Market on Saturday, April 2 at 10 a.m. She’ll get you excited about driving traffic through promotions and contests. More information on her seminar and full lineup of events can be found here.

More on bundling can be found in “Pricing for Profit” by Dale Furtwengler, available from

Secrets to Shopping AmericasMart’s HOME Category

STopolI will always remember when I first met the celebrated interior designer Stan Topol. It was during our July 2009 Gift and Home Furnishings Market, and I was brand new to AmericasMart assisting with our b.inspired home design showcase (pictures here: Within moments of our introduction I instantly felt his legendary presence. A legendary presence stemming from a highly successful interior design career beginning in New York assisting Bill Baldwin to becoming the founder of award winning Stan Topol & Associates ( based in Atlanta, Georgia. His signature work can be seen throughout America with many different avante garde individuals, companies and industries. With a solid love for Atlanta, the interior design industry, AmericasMart and ADAC, Stan is quick to share his passions and extensive knowledge of the Interior Design industry. Since our b.inspired home design showcase, Stan has brought many of his clients to our HOME showrooms (Building 1, Floors 9-14) and I have had the privilege of working with him on our upcoming exclusive event. I know that the same legendary presence that I first felt will be evident as he brings his passion and secrets to shopping AmericasMart to our January Market Walk and Talk event.

This is a “can’t miss” event if you are interested in learning how you can better use AmericasMart as an interior design resource. First, hear Stan’s tips, strategies, design solutions and inspirations. Then, he will take you on a guided tour throughout the Home floors and showrooms where he will point out some of the best designer showrooms, products and lines. You are sure to leave this event with a better understanding of the reasons why many interior designers, including the legendary Stan Topol, consider AmericasMart one of the most valuable resources in the Nation.

Friday, January 14, 2011
2:30 p.m.
All About Home: Talk and Walk with Stan Topol
Building 1, Floor 14, Seminar Room 14-D-9

R.S.V.P. Please e-mail by Monday, January 3, 2011.

Blogging For Business

image001_SmallIn preparation for speaking to fellow retailers at the upcoming AmericasMart Gift Market in Atlanta next month, I’ve been thinking about what I feel are the most important aspects of blogging for business. I started a blog for my invitation, stationery and gift boutique in October of 2008. I wasn’t exactly sure what a blog would do for my small business when I started it, however, I now know how valuable it is for keeping current customers engaged and obtaining new customers. I hope to be able to share some of what I’ve learned about “blogging for business” with my colleagues in Atlanta in January.

Here is a sneak preview of what I’ll be sharing.

Keep It Simple

It really couldn’t be easier to create a blog for your business. It is much easier than creating and maintaining a website and can even be your business’ website if you don’t have a reason to keep a separate web presence. Using free blog hosting services such as WordPress and Blogger, it’s as simple as creating a free account, selecting from one of their excellent blog templates and filling in the blanks to customize the blog for your business. Then you do have to actually come up with what you want to blog about.

More about that at my upcoming seminar. Hint: It’s simple.

Keep Communicating

One of the original reasons I started a blog was because I didn’t want to send emails to customers too often at the risk of ending up in their SPAM folders or them just not reading emails because they were to frequent. I have always sent a monthly email newsletter to customer who subscribe and found that as business grew, there were times I wanted to communicate with customers more than monthly. Blogging was my answer. I post information on the blog that is worthy of sharing between newsletters and then direct customers to the blog for special updates, event info, sale and new product notifications. In this case, if customers want the information, they are free to review it, however, we are keeping our promise of only emailing them once per month.

Keep It Going

Blogging does take time. You may be lucky enough to have someone to delegate

blogging to, which would mean it won’t take as much of your time. I actually really enjoy blogging and using it as a platform to tell others about my business, therefore, I maintain our blog entirely on my own. Anything worth doing takes time and one of the biggest blogging mistakes you can make is to stop blogging once you’ve started. Make a commitment to your blog, just like you commit to your business. Make it something reasonable for you, not something an expert told you. If you can commit to blog once a week that’s great. If you can commit to once a month, that’s better than not at all.

Keep It Connected

Because I’m also an avid user of social media for my business, I use other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to promote our blog to existing and prospective customers. After I post on our blog, I always put a link to the new post on Facebook and Twitter. These avenues expose our blog to many more people than just those who choose to follow it. I also reference the blog in our monthly email newsletter. I’ve found that this makes creating the newsletter faster and easier. I typically cover some of the same information in the monthly email newsletter that’s recently been posted on the blog. I link directly from the newsletter articles to the blog to share more detailed information, making the newsletter more concise.

These are just a few of my “blogging for business” tips. I’ll be sharing much more at the upcoming panel discussion “The Power of Blogging” AmericasMart University: Building

Your Brand Course on Thursday, January 13, 2011 from 1- 2 p.m. in Building 1, Floor 10, Room 1001. I hope to have the opportunity to meet many of you there!