In my last post I wrote about our upcoming purchasing trip to the Tracht & Country Trade Show in Salzburg. As a follow-up (and because so many customers ask) I'm going to elaborate a little on the whole trade show experience, and give the inside scoop on how the industry works.
The sole purpose of the Tracht & Country show is to allow retailers from across Europe (and one from Canada!) to meet with various suppliers in order to view and order merchandise. It's also a wonderful opportunity for up-and-coming designers and small to medium sized manufacturers to "network" and to have their products seen by literally hundreds of buyers from the retail sector.
Most of the fashion industry works on two production cycles or "seasons" per year i.e.: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. The specific designs, colours, and fabrics to be used in each collection are finalized by the designers at least 9 months ahead of the start of production; then the sample garments are made, and the catalogues are produced. In most cases, the catalogues, photos, or any information about the new season's collection are kept secret until the time of the show, so it's a little like Christmas - on an absolutely massive scale. We never know what will be unveiled, or what treasures we'll discover... with all that eye candy, it's little wonder it takes us three days to get our shopping done!
The Spring Tracht & Country show is always held on the first weekend in March, and marks the start of the purchasing period for the fall/winter season. Like most retailers, we book the bulk of our orders at the show, but we are able to place further orders with most of our suppliers through March 31. The suppliers work on a quota system, ie: in order to begin production of any given article, there must be a certain minimum quantity already on order. If any item fails to meet the order quota, then it is taken out of the production schedule. By the time we receive our merchandise, our suppliers have already set up for production of their Spring/Summer collections, so there is no chance of ordering anything extra...with items ordered seasonally, it's always a case of "when they're gone, they're gone!".
Many trachten suppliers carry a few "stock" items, which are available year round, including simple dirndls for waitresses and others in the hospitality industry, basic white blouses, trachten sweaters, and standard checkered shirts and lederhosen for men and boys. Most accessories manufacturers produce enough stock to have items available year-round "while quantities last". That said, we do have to plan ahead, as most "trending" accessories, as well as many staple items such as hats and socks are difficult to order from any supplier during August, as they are overwhelmed by local demand for the Munich Oktoberfest selling season.
The merchandise we order in March begins arriving in late June...and those big boxes just keep on coming all summer. Generally, all of our dirndls, blouses, lederhosen, trachten shirts and accessories have arrived by late August, giving me lots of time to stock the e-store shelves and have a great selection to offer our customers at our local Oktoberfest trunk shows. Lucky last-minute and online customers get first crack at any late arrivals.
Our challenge in purchasing/ordering at the show, and in general, is anticipating the needs and wants of our customers - which varies from year to year. Not only do we have to consider which styles and colours will sell well in the North American market, but we also have to be sure that we purchase a good variety of merchandise across a wide size range for both women and men, so we don't disappoint our customers. The fact that all of the vendors at the show (and their customers!) are impeccably attired in beautiful and often cutting-edge tracht and casual country clothing makes it doubly difficult to stay focused and keep to our budget. We have managed to do this fairly successfully thus far, with only a few notable "gaffs"...which is why we really appreciate ongoing input and feedback from our customers!