Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gut Reactions

One of my jobs is that of product buyer. I'm constantly inundated with new product information and it's often hard to decide what to buy. Sometimes, if I'm at a loss, I'll piggyback on someone else's opinion. "How many did she buy?" might be the question to my sales rep, referring to someone in the industry with fantastic taste and a nose for what's good. Lately that list has grown smaller as retailers have quit the business, either voluntarily or less so, or perhaps we've diverged in our style of stores and our tastes are no longer compatible. What I have realized recently, however, is that my gut is often right. Trusting it just took time.

There are four consistent gut reactions that I can trust:

Bleck tends to be right on the money. Products that are cheap, gimmicky, or sappy sweet will always lose me money, and it's only when I disconnect my gut from my brain that I'm in danger of bringing them in. It's not quite greed, but usually there's a feeling that these are the kinds of things stores like mine should have, rather than taking my own situation into account. Bleck is dangerous, almost as dangerous as Cool!

Cool! is ironically the most dangerous reaction, as my gut tends to override my brain. It's on the opposite side of the gut reaction spectrum from Bleck, in which my brain attempts to convince my gut that it's wrong. Cool is what leads to bringing in really cool stuff that nobody can either afford or find a valid reason to buy. Cool is dangerous in both selection and depth of purchase, often leaving me not only with the wrong product, but a LOT of it. Cool will lead to bankruptcy real quick. Avoid too much cool.

Meh, is powerful. Meh is the response I get from most games, and they deserve a Meh. Meh has been my reaction to the supposed big hits of the year at the last two trade shows I've attended. Other vendors give me astonished looks when I pronounce my Meh. Still, I didn't trust my Meh reactions, and instead ordered a bunch of Meh, bowing to peer pressure. Meh is situational, of course, and only I can tell you if your Cool is my Meh. I have learned to trust my Meh. Meh is anything collectible miniature, branded games, and gimmicky geek junk. Meh is half way between Cool and Bleck on my brain chemistry scale.

Hmmm, is the reaction that I want. It's half way between Cool and Meh, as in, this really doesn't light my fire, but I could see how it could. Usually I have a group of customers in mind when I get a Hmmm. I just went through a jigsaw puzzle catalog from a new vendor and there was a lot of Bleck, like puzzles with kittens in Christmas stockings, but there were about a dozen or so Hmmms, like nautical puzzles and faeries. These Hmmms I will buy.

As an aside, I am the Anti-Puzzle, and any puzzle I pick out is guaranteed not to sell. Puzzles are generally the only area in which I tell a sales rep to send me X amount of their best sellers. If I like it, it won't sell, but I'm getting better at it. We'll see with those sailing ships and faeries.

These gut reactions are, of course, balanced with oodles of sales data and an understanding of my customer base.

Bleck ----- Meh ----- Hmmmm ----- Cool

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