'Top Ten Tips for being a CFM Merchandiser'

In today's extremely competitive apparel industry, CFM-Customer Focused Merchandising is the single most important factor that can differentiate you from others in the field, whichever side you may be on, be it retailing or sourcing as in buying offices or in manufacturing. We cannot afford to be satisfied with just being 'nice' to customer anymore. We must aim to offer them an unforgettable experience. This requires not just training, skills and knowledge, but creating an environment where people take pride in serving others. Buyers/ Customers are not just buying the product or service from you, they purchase 'how they feel doing business with you'. It's the memory they retain of how it was to work with you...and that's what keeps them coming back to you again.

1. Be the Expert

You must know your job thoroughly so that your customer can trust you. An understanding about fabrics, fit/ pattern issues, costing, lead times, etc is a must have for a CFM merchant. For example, if you get a request from the buyer for making a certain complex garment at a very sharp price, you as a CFM merchant should be able to act as a consultant to the buyer by giving them options of what modifications can be made to make the garment fit in the target price, as well as warn them of any potential lead time or production feasibility issues to allow the customer to make an informed decision right at the outset of development stage.

2. Professionalism counts

Professionalism in every job that they do is what makes a CFM merchant shine above the rest. It's a reflection of who you are as a person and as a professional. Whether it's a swatch card you make or whether its a lab dip submit you prepare or whether its a cost sheet you send to buyer, in every job that you do, you can make a tremendous difference to the experience the customer will go through, just by being a thorough professional. I have witnessed a million frustrating moments which buyers face, when a job is not professionally done. Trying to figure out a badly hand written tag, scratched/ rewritten information on swatch cards, incomplete information on submit cards etc are just a few examples. A professionally done job is what makes the customer go 'wow'!

3. Make it easy for the customer

CFM merchants will ensure to make life easy for customer. Simple! Let me give you some examples. If you are offering different fabric options to the customer, as a CFM, you will make sure to include complete fabric details in terms of count, construction, weight, width, lead-time, price etc...And you will even go a step further to give an estimated garment fob for each fabric option being offered. There!, you made life easy for buyer, by anticipating and proactively addressing all their needs, without being asked to! Wow! I am reminded of a situation I came across in my life as a merchant. A particular submit was rejected for quality by buyer with almost panic sounding remarks, when it was intended for colour approval! Now if you were a CFM merchant, the situation would never have arisen, because you would have simply made sure to write complete details on the submit including the purpose-ONLY FOR COLOR APPROVAL, NOT FOR QUALITY.

4. Speed to customer

CFM merchants realise the importance of the need to respond quickly to the needs of the customers, especially critical in the fast paced dynamic world of fashion and apparel. You have to be able to get back with your price quotes, sample turnarounds, approval submits and the like within the limited time available. In fact, the best is to be chasing the buyers instead of being chased by them.