Ask Meg: Advice Column for Fellow Retail Store Operators

Megan Swartz

If we all knew the answers to life’s questions, then you would never have to tap on the expertise of others. While not everyone is going to take the advice you offer, it helps if you are a recognized expert in your field. It will be 13 years this June that I’ve worked in the adult industry. After climbing my way up the ladder, I get asked questions all the time about how I handle the business inside and out. It is my goal with this article, to give advice to readers that are likely to have similar problems to those that I have worked through over the years.

What advice would you give a first-time buyer?

Your turnover could be affected by the placement of your price tag. Not because it is marked too high, although that also can affect turnover, but because guests rarely have to put anything in their hand. They can just ‘window shop’ when what you really want is for them to touch and feel the product.

This is going to be a response most sales representatives will not be partial to but you CAN NOT be afraid to say no. That is the best guidance I can offer a first-time buyer, without a doubt. There are plenty of perks that come with being a buyer; you will never be without a drink in your hand at the bar, you will never miss dinner and you will never be short of friends at the trade shows. However, there is also a great deal of pressure that comes with being a buyer.

The fact of the matter is you can’t buy everything. It never feels good to reject anyone but it is an important part of the position. You might find yourself avoiding certain booths like the plague because you can not say no enough times. Some items are just not suitable for your store. As a sales representative, you must back your product and believe in it. This means your items are the perfect fit for all stores and must be given the prime location. Of course, when you merchandise properly, the product will fly off the shelves.

Unfortunately there is only so much space for impulse items or products that you want to be in the face of every guest passing through. If you, as the buyer, are not confident something will sell, you should go with your instincts. Although it can be very uncomfortable at times, you can’t make purchases that will leave you with dusty stock that ends up costing your business money in the long run. You will often be asked the question, “why?” The truth is you would be failing your employer if you bring in product you don’t feel will sell.

Easier to type than say.

What do you do with product that hasn’t sold in 30-60 days?

Believe it or not, in retail, you are looking to average four turns per year. Meaning an item will likely sit on the shelf for around 90 days. If you bring in an item and have not seen movement in 30 days, fear not, there is still time! Make sure the item has been introduced to your staff properly. It isn’t always easy to give a demo to your entire staff of every single new item you bring in but it is never too late to give a slower moving item a better introduction to your sales team. If you bring in an entire line and have not seen movement in 30 days, you might be in trouble.

Technically, if you are trying to hit four turns per year, one-third of a line should move in 30 days. The good thing about lingerie is that it can be put on a mannequin and is almost guaranteed to sell rather quickly. Some items have zero hanger appeal but look quite nice on. Monokinis are a prime example. They literally look like a scarf hanging on the hanger. If guests don’t actually fidget with them they will likely have no clue what they are looking at. We like to put these on hangers with indentions for the triangle top and clips for the bottom all in one. It looks much nicer and guests get the idea that it’s a top and bottom.

Once they have it in their hands they can see the pieces are connected. That’s the goal isn’t it? If you can get items in the guests’ hands it is much easier to make a sale. If this is true, and I believe it is, your turnover could be affected by the placement of your price tag. Not because it is marked too high, although that also can affect turnover, but because guests rarely have to put anything in their hand. They can just “window shop” when what you really want is for them to touch and feel the product. This is why you want sales people on your floor moving around and working with the guests. The only other suggestion I have, and I’m sure the most obvious would be a change in your product placement. Sometimes our regulars have a tendency to travel the same path when they are in. I notice I myself do that when shopping.

Do you offer education on toys purchased?

Yes! We offer education on all items. Even if you don’t make a purchase, we will test everything for guests. Whether it’s light-up shoes or every toy we carry. We want guests to get a feel for every option prior to making a purchase. We have a large amount of guests, both new to adult products and repeat customers that are not educated in adult items. It is very important to us to share our knowledge and experience so that guests may invest accordingly. We all know there are a wide range of items in each category. All of these options can be quite overwhelming for inexperienced potential buyers. We aim to teach what we have learned to ensure not only satisfaction but safety as well. We want guests to enjoy what they are leaving with. We want to enhance their sexual adventures, not just make a sale.

We work in a very unique industry. Most of the outside world will never understand what it takes to operate these specialty stores. It is important to me to share my experience and help the success of my fellow adult retail operators. I have made visits to other stores within my brand across the country from St. Louis to Miami to help with staff training and product merchandising. I am always available for newcomers or even old dogs that are interested in new tricks. I am an email or phone call away if I can be of assistance to anyone in the game.

With more than 10 years working with Deja Vu’s various branches, Megan Swartz — Deja Vu’s general manager and buyer — has made a name for herself as a dedicated and savvy, merchandising and operations-managing dynamo.