Editor’s Letter: What it takes to be the best

Editor, negotiator, prognosticator, collaborator: to be a buyer today requires more than good taste!

Karen Alberg GrossmanIn this special issue of MR, we profile some of the menswear industry’s Best Buyers. Although the selection process was difficult, we learned much from these merchants and hope that you too will gain insight from these pages. In addition to merchandising secrets, these buyers talk openly about their personal challenges and opportunities, their mentors and mistakes, their families and favorites. In so doing, they totally reinforced my perception that buying today requires not just a good eye, but a good amount of juggling, risk-taking and diplomacy.

I’d been thinking a lot about this lately, in preparation for speaking to retailing majors at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. What it takes to be a great buyer: Good taste and a strong sense of style. Intelligence. Charm and charisma. The ability to say no in a nice way. An open mind. A willingness to sacrifice some of your personal life. An ability to compromise and collaborate. Negotiation skills. A clear vision and the ability to communicate it, especially to the people who have to sell it. A true passion and a willingness to fight for your beliefs. Knowing when not to fight. Math skills. Chutzpah. Leadership skills and the ability to inspire. A strong ability to listen and synthesize diverse information. Computer/social media skills. A sense of humor (or at least a sense of perspective). A good memory. Organizational skills. Good instincts. Strength (for lifting boxes). Stamina and diligence. A love of the game. A love of travel. The ability to function without sleep. The ability to not take things personally. Knowing when to speak out and when to keep your mouth shut. Creativity. An ability to focus. A crystal ball…

And just as retail buyers need more than a good eye, menswear editors need more than writing skills. What does it takes to be a great editor at MR Magazine? You have to be a good interviewer, for sure, with a keen understanding of retailing. You need, if not a profound love for men’s fashion, at least an understanding of its nuances and cadences. You need to differentiate between what’s BS and what’s real, recognizing that few vendors ever admit that their business is down but knowing that everything can’t always be fabulous. You have to get retailers to open up even when they’re sitting in a room with several corporate PR people whose job it is to monitor every word and make sure they say nothing of importance. In addition, you need to recognize industry clich├ęs and write stories using as few as possible. For how many times can we write “cautiously optimistic,” “omni-channel,” “customer-centric,” or “price-value relationship”? How many retailers can we quote saying “what we need from the market is newness” or “customers need a reason to buy”? Can we believe the entire market is selling Nordstrom, Saks and Bloomingdale’s?

To my fabulous team at MR: you’ve learned the lessons well and are truly “best editors” in my book. And to all the best buyers out there, the ones profiled here and the many others who help us analyze the business every day, we thank you for your candor, your insights, your sense of humor, and for making our industry the best there is!

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