I had a really exciting fashion-related weekend that I can’t wait to share with you babes!
I don’t think I have mentioned this before, but I am the treasurer of an organization at my school called AATCC. AATCC stands for American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, and the national organization writes test methods for wet processing procedures such as colorfastness (fading), resistance, absorption, repellency, and so many more.
The club I am a part of at school is one of their many student branches, and although it sounds very science-y, we don’t do anything science related at all! Every semester we put on a student-run fashion show, have socials, do community service, and give industry updates and style segments at our meetings.
Fall is unique because we take a field trip to Atlanta to go visit the Atlanta Apparel Mart the AmericasMart. The AmericasMart is a huge trade show for buyers. I mean huge. It has 14 floors, and 13 out of the 14 are a maze of vendors. The cover photo of this post is the directory of categories in the middle of the mart. Walking in and seeing that first thing is overwhelming, especially if you have never been or don’t know what you’re looking for.
If you’ve ever wondered how a store chooses its inventory, that’s a buyer’s job. A buyer travels around the world to trade shows selecting merchandise that would appeal to their customers and target market. A lot of stores also have buyers for each department, like Women’s, Men’s, Accessories, and Shoes.
The AmericasMart is full of vendors that the buyers can talk to and negotiate with. For example a Women’s Buyer for PacSun would likely go to the Brandy Melville booth to get merchandise for their store since that is a popular brand they sell. Vendor’s sell at wholesale (in bulk), and each vendor has different minimums, prices, and requirements for purchasing.
For a certain shirt, one vendor may require that the buyer purchases a minimum of 30 pieces and small, medium, and large sizes are split evenly. Other vendors may have no minimum, and let buyers decide how many of each size they want. Some vendors even have deals where if you buy X amount of a piece you get X amount free or a price discount.
We learn all about this in our classes, but it was a really amazing experience to see it in action. When I was walking down the isles I overheard some buyers asking vendors questions and vendors showing buyers what their packages are.
As a student organization just visiting, some vendors wouldn’t talk to us or gave us dirty looks when we walked by with our badges that said “STUDENT” in big bold letters. But some vendors who saw that immediately started conversations and asked about our studies and gave us information on their brand and how their process works.
One woman we ran into in the elevator got really excited and told us to go see her on floor nine so she could talk to us. The group I was with took her up on that offer and when we went to her she showed us around, introduced us to one of her designers, and explained how the designer creates her designs and modified them to fit the customer. She even gave us information on internships, what you would be doing if you interned for her, gave us her card and encouraged us to apply. Since our major requires an internship to graduate, I will definitely be looking into that. Actually there are internships throughout the entire Mart, which is something I would have never thought to check out.
Even though Fall just started, buyers started looking for their fall inventory months in advanced. That’s why the Fall 2016 Fashion Weeks are held in February-March. At the Mart, buyers were looking for their Spring 2017 collections because the Spring shows are in September-October.
We got the opportunity to see a fashion show featuring Montreal collections from several brands. It’s somewhat top-secret, but what I can tell you is that the forecast for this springs contains a lot of bright colors, cropped pants, culottes, high-low dresses and shirts, printed skater dresses, and long open front sleevless cardigans. So don’t be surprised if you see a few of those trends in Spring 2017.
Now the best part, for us at least: the shopping!
Since we weren’t buyers, we couldn’t buy directly from vendors. However, there were a few floors with “Cash and Carry” stores where we could shop retail to our heart’s content.
The coolest thing about it was that all of the merchandise was being sold at wholesale price, which is the price that is marked up from the price they bought it at from the producer and sold to the vendor. The price you see on the clothing racks in your favorite store is marked up from the wholesale price that the buyer paid to the vendor.
The merchandise in a few of the stores we shopped at were listed at the retail price, but the associate told us that we would only have to pay half of that. In another store everything was only $15 or around that price.
As expected everyone in our group went crazy, and we even had to go drag some people out when it was time to leave.
I have to say that I scored some pretty awesome deals. I found this really cute leather cross-body bucket bag for $28.25 (56.50 retail), and I had to have it. When I saw it, I was sure that it was a mini backpack, but I didn’t realize it was a cross-body bag until I got home. But it doesn’t matter because I was drawn to the embellishments and I would buy anything with that pattern on it.
Another great deal I came across was in the shoe department. My mom has been telling me to get shoes for at least two months, because the only decent ones I really have are boots. I do have some sandals, flip flops, and heels but they are literally falling apart, and I’ve worn my black flats so much that I burned a hole through the bottom.
But whenever I go shoe shopping, it’s hard for me to find a pair I love, and when I do they either don’t have my size or they’re way too expensive for my taste. Well, I lucked out at the AmericasMart because there was a Cash and Carry store dedicated to shoes, which were also discounted.
I was able to get a pair of suede chunky heels, suede lace up flats, and white canvas sneakers all for just under 70 dollars before tax. When you do that math, it comes to about $20 per pair, which is an awesome deal if you ask me.
I think my favorite find of the day was in the $15 dollar store, as we called it. I came across this black, open back, skater dress with old-fashioned Pepsi can graphics. For some reason I was very drawn to it and I knew it had to be hanging in my closet. I thought it was $15, but it ended up being $10, and for a Love Culture dress, that was a steal.
coincidentally, one of my roommates for the weekend ended up getting the same leather jacket as I did at the “”15 dollar store” for $20. We didn’t know it at the time, but when we were expressing to each other how much we loved it we discovered it was from American Rag, one of Macys’ private brands, and at the store it’s sold for $70. My roommate’s jacket actually had a Macy’s tag with the retail price attached to the sleeve, so that was a really cool thing to see.
A lot of the girls I was with, including me, got some Christmas shopping in too. I can’t tell you details about that though because my family checks my blog and the last thing I want to do is spoil it.
I’m telling you about these sales to give you an insight on the retail industry. Being at the Mart changed the way me, and many other girl’s shop. Later that day, we took the Marta to the Lennox mall (we’re fashion students what do you expect), and we all got bitter about the prices we saw on the tags.
We knew that there was a huge mark up from the wholesale price. We started cutting every price we saw in half and joked about how that’s what we would pay at wholesale.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but deep down I knew things sort of worked like that, because retailers have to make a profit somehow, but after seeing just how much prices are increased it put shopping into a whole new perspective.
It wasn’t just the Cash and Carry floors that were insanely cheap though, the vendors that were there to sell to buyers on the floors had prices that made you question spending $30 dollars on a blouse. And when you think about it, the actual cost to make the garment is cheaper than the wholesale price, because the vendors do a mark up from what they bought it at from the producer.
I refuse to pay full price for anything ever again. I hope this gives you a little more knowledge about how the retail industry works. In my classes, they drill this process into our heads, but having a real life experience really made me see things clearly. I’m really grateful for this opportunity because I know it will help me in my career path, and it was a great way for me to get to know our new members and bond with the other officers. I’m already sad about the fact that I’ll be graduating and won’t get to go next year!
As a side note: Aeropostale is closing all of its stores, and everything in-store and online is 50-70% off. I haven’t stepped foot in an Aeropostale since middle school, but when we went to the mall I got my fall shopping in. Jeans were buy one get two free, and one pair is somewhere around $55. So that’s something to check out if you haven’t already.
Thanks for letting me share this experience with you Babes!
dress well. eat well. live well.