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Learning Retail Merchandising Basics?

What and how much do you really need to know?

   
2:59 pm on Nov 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Like many people visiting this forum on WebmasterWorld, I'm very interested in starting an online retail business. I have a small niche picked out that complements a content site I already run, and I have all the technical skills I need to implement an online store.

What I realize is one of my weak spots and what I would like help with now is fundamental retail merchandising. Specifically, the mechanics of acquiring and managing inventory, cash flow, what the important metrics are, etc.

I plan to start very small, on a part-time basis. I also plan to bootstrap the operation with my own funds even though I realize that will restrict growth potential at first. So while I don't need the comprehensive skills required to run a Fortune 500 company, I don't quite feel comfortable getting started without understanding some basics.

So I guess my questions are:

1. Where are some good places to learn the basics? Any recommended books, web sites, etc.? (I'm sure the "school of hard knocks" will also factor prominently in my education)

2. For those of you that are successful at online retailing, how well did you understand retailing when you first started and how important do you think it is for new retailers to know the basics before they get started?

I could always just "buy a bunch of stuff", throw up a web site and hang up the "for sale" sign, but I'm trying to approach this as professionally as possible.

Thanks for any help or advice you can provide.

2:22 am on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)



Plan it "en route" and develop as you go along. This build momentum and things work themselves out as you get out of the planning stage.
2:13 pm on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Go to your public library and ask for the "Readers Guide To Periodic Literature." This is basically a categorized list of magazines. Find the trade magazines in the area you are interested in. Most of these magazines will either be free, or be included with membership in trade organizations. Joining these organizations will also get you on all of the right mailing lists to get even more information. Sometimes you can find the websites for these magazines, but they usually get lost in the search engines so it is easier to find them through the library.
5:51 pm on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I could always just "buy a bunch of stuff", throw up a web site and hang up the "for sale" sign, but I'm trying to approach this as professionally as possible.

I actually think this is probably a good way to learn and is essentially what I did (although I maybe wouldn't describe it quite so crudely!).

Over time you get a good understanding of how your customers behave. You'll find which products sell well and which ones don't. You can obviously follow that on by adding more of the things that sell well and remove the ones that done.

Sure you're going to make mistakes along the way, and I'd try and avoid buying too much stock to start with. Some people I am sure will advise going down the drop-shipping route.

I find it very much an iterative process of trying things and either keeping or dropping them depending on their performance!

6:38 pm on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



>>>Find the trade magazines in the area you are interested in.

Fantastic suggestion!

Also, a trip to a trade show in the industry will be a good idea. You need to be aware of your potential competition and any competing products. You can do a lot of market research at a trade show and maybe get better pricing as well as find "new" products for yoru site.

12:23 am on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Sometimes you can find the websites for these magazines, but they usually get lost in the search engines so it is easier to find them through the library.

Just to say... I do a lot of searching for specific magazines and the organizations that publish them, and have found MSN to be the best search engine (out of those I've tried) for finding a specific site. OTOH, if you want to throw out a net to see what you can find about a topic or product, Google is better. YMMV.