Is your guide the same as this product I saw on another site?

From time to time, I get an email from a prospective customer asking me if my guide is the same as a guide on another website. To really answer that question, I need to provide a little history on how the clothing broker came about. When I initially wrote the guide, it was because through working with people in off-price, I started to come across the same problems. When I first started, I felt like there was hardly any information available. Anyone who had any information really wasn’t eager to share it because the more people in the industry, the more scarce the merchandise would become. Especially when dealing with a crowded marketplace like eBay, you are almost sabotaging your own efforts by helping other people in the industry.

I was extremely fortunate to make really good connections and learn from people who had ten, fifteen, twenty years of experience in the off-price industry and I was able to avoid a lot of mistakes. There are also times when I made mistakes and part of it was because I fell into the trap of having the gut feeling that something was wrong, not really having a good feeling about a particular buy, but moving forward anyway because I wanted to get a great deal. After all of this time in the off-price industry, I was encouraged by a really good friend to write the book. My motivation was a combination of helping people, but also taking the knowledge that I had gained, and that I was repeating to multiple people, and packaging it into a product that people could read and use as a starting point for success in the off-price industry.

The guide is not intended to be a specific blueprint or have all the answers or every single source. It is a tremendous help to people who have the initiative, talent, skill and the work ethic to succeed. But there are some people who are looking for everything to be simplistic and for them, it probably won’t be of much assistance.

When you create an information product, there are several ways to market it. Typically, what you commonly see is something that is very strong on the sales pitch, has bonus offers, or has an auto-responder. It’s a very typical squeeze page and it’s a way of marketing an informational product. I decided early on that that wasn’t how I wanted to go about it. I was just going to be straightforward – either you wanted it or you didn’t and if you didn’t, it was no big deal. As a result, I don’t offer reprint rights, I don’t offer this as a private level resale program, and the guide is not sold anywhere else except theclothingbroker.com. That means when you see another site that looks eerily like mine, they copied.

This site, the clothing broker; it’s been around for a long time and a lot of people have copied parts of the content and parts of the guide in an attempt to create their own product. I wrote everything myself, didn’t copy anyone, just completely and totally straightforward. I also don’t offer this product under another brand or another identity or another twist on the concept. It’s here. It is what it is, and I wrote it. If you saw someone with it somewhere else, let me know since I actually have this website, the guide and all the content protected under registered federal copyright because of all of the people who’ve the copied my content over the years.

The Clothingbroker– Missing In Action

The most interesting email I ever received from a customer was from this guy in Singapore. He purchased the guide at what must have been a normal time in his time zone. He then proceeded to send three emails, approximately 1-2 hours apart asking why I had not processed the registration for the guide. So, when I responded I kindly told him that his purchase was at about 1AM in my time zone and his last email arrived at about 6 AM, when I was still asleep.

The Friday purchases are the worst because, I kind of tune out on Friday evening and come back to life on Monday mornings (and, of course, I am always playing catch up on Mondays). People purchase the guide on Fridays and on Mondays are ready to chargeback or complain to paypal or whatever.

I regularly have to remind people that:

A) I don’t live in the computer
B) I do have a life and can’t be on the computer all the time
C) I also have to make a living (hint: doing something other than selling this guide)
D) The guide never has been, and won’t be, an immediate download. I still manually go through and process registrations.
E) Comcast high speed internet sucks (they are constantly down) but since that’s all I have where I live, that’s what I have to live with. As I am writing this, it takes about 4 minutes for just yahoo.com to load. I mean, how can a person live with that?

I thought it would be a cool idea to have a blog

Introduction:

I thought it would be a cool idea to have a blog. Sometimes I just have random thoughts, too insignificant to become part of the guide, too urgent to wait until a newsletter update, so this is a good way to get things out there, off my chest, for you all to read.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this site, and what I do, you can read about my guide here. If you haven’t bought it, it’s a great thing to read, good content, but what else would you expect me to say.

Well, that’s enough of an introduction, I’m not one for gabbing when I’m tired so we can move along.

A New Year, a New Outlook… or not

It has been such an incredibly long time since I updated this blog. A lot has changed, there have been a lot of issues with the website. I apologize to any buyers that fell victim to my slowness, my email problems, server problems or a host of other problems that kept me from being at peak performance.

I’ve learned a lot from you all over the past years. When you register at the website, I can get to see what brands people want. I can gauge how interest shifts from one group of brands to another. I see a lot of you still have those dreams of only selling the highest of high end merchandise. Some things change, some things stay the same.

The off-price market has changed a lot as well. I don’t see as many people being able to compete selling department store merchandise as they used to. A lot of you have told me that the money is not in store stock like it used to be. A lot of you moved off ebay and got into some (more lucrative) ventures.

A lot of you have taken my advice and developed relationships with your vendors, and the effort has paid off. Many of you developed the courage to create your own deals with small stores and designers, and that’s wonderful. It has always been a joy seeing your businesses prosper and flourish.

With that said, I bid you adieu until the new year. Have a prosperous 2005 until I start blogging again.

Never Too Busy

A few days ago, a customer called. She was asking about her guide and had some general questions about the industry. She was really nice and apologetic and kept saying “I know you’re probably too busy…” I had to reassure her that I was available to help.

I want to make something clear: I’m never too busy to help customers. I’m busy and I won’t always be there to answer your emails right away, I have a hectic life. But I do help my customers as best I can.

Having said that I have to lay some ground rules:

I do limit my help to customers, i.e. people who have purchased the guide. Sometimes people can ask a question and if it’s quick I’ll answer. But I usually don’t go into detail to help people who have not purchased the guide. It doesn’t seem fair but the fact is people like to try to get over when they can. I’ve had people (mainly guys– no disrespect but that’s the truth) call and talk about how they are looking for $10,000 of merchandise, yet go on and on about the risk involved in paying the amount for the guide. Hey, the price for my guide is measly compared to ten grand. I don’t charge people for providing information that they ask so I limit my assistance to those that have shown the courtesy (that’s how I see it) of buying and reading the guide first.

I don’t help people with bad attitudes at all. That’s real. If I wanted to deal with impatient people, jerks, demanding, irritating, annoying and/or rude people, I’d go get a job. But I don’t have one and haven’t had one in years. So, that’s the pleasure of being a small business owner- I don’t have to take crap from people and believe me I don’t.

I can’t help people without a focus. Some people email like “I don’t know what I want to do.” And I’m like, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not THAT kind of person. I don’t have the capacity to be able to assist people who are unsure about what they want to do.

It’s better to have a concise email. If you go on and on with fifteen questions in one email, I’m not going to know where in the heck to begin. You can always get and answer and then ask another, but asking too many just overwhelms me.

I won’t answer questions I feel can be easily answered with a quick google search. Stuff like when is XYZ trade show. Now if you want to ask me if I have been or how it was, that’s different.

Anyhoo, that’s about it for now.

Naughty or Nice

So I get off the phone with this supplier and I am a little sad. Because I felt like he was a little curt, a little short, not very nice at all. So I’m sitting here thinking about this company and whether or not I want to do business with them. The person inside tells me to let it go, I don’t need to do business with someone who isn’t very nice. But the business person in me tells me that this is a competent, reliable company, I’m looking for a business relationship not a phone buddy.

I remember once I had a meeting with this consultant. She made this comment (and I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t remember exactly) that a crucial mistake people make is choosing to do business with people that they like, who are not always the best choice. And it really got me thinking today.

Let me just say that I have never known of a scammer who wasn’t nice. And neither has anybody that I know who has been scammed. They are always friendly, cordial, always available to take your call, never too busy. I think this is part of the lure, why people trust them so much. Because, obviously, when you deal with so many curt or rude suppliers, you figure you’re better off with those who are the nicest.

Often people contact me and they say, “Oh I called that company but they were so rude.” And I say, “you know what, if you are going to be in this business, you need to get over that. Quickly.” Companies that deal with consumers tend to be “nicer” than companies that deal with businesses. They may get to know you and all about your family and friends and your dog’s heart surgery, maybe, but most are too busy for that kind of chit chat. So conversations are very short and to the point. There’s not a whole lot of this and that and the other going on. What do you want and when do you need it thank you and goodbye.

And so I have had to learn to have a thick skin. Or just to not be affected by what may be perceived as unfriendliness. Keep this in mind as you contact suppliers looking for merchandise. Because if you write off every company that is, well a little off in the personal contact department, you will miss some gems. Oh, but there is a line to draw, there are boundaries, but you will figure those out.

Bridging the Gap

I have a new thing coming on the horizon. I’m going to step back and talk a but about what I do (I love to talk) and then move on to my idea.

Years ago I had a very good friend who was in the off price business. She’s a brilliant entrepreneur. And we collaborated on a lot of ideas within the off price clothing industry. We got around to getting to know other retailers like us, people who sold on eBay, had websites, were middlemen, had stores and such. One of the things that first came up was these huge inefficiencies in the market.

As a whole, the wholesale business arena (whether it’s off price or regular price) has not embraced the internet and probably will not for a very long time. There are tons of well respected experts telling small businesses and entrepreneurs that the internet is a wash. They look at macrobusinesses like Bloomingdales.com, Pets.com and all the other failed dot-coms (remember Boo.com?) and they think that it just doesn’t work. But they don’t know anything about the new era of microbusinesses and the innovators in the large companies that are making it work.

So nobody wants to “waste their time” with the internet. But the internet is incubating the next generation of entrepreneurs. The people who will have stores in the next few years, who will have large businesses, they are here right now, but no one can make the connection.

And I don’t think many will. There are some jobbers that have embraced the net and have been able to make a smashing success of it. But you won’t hear them speaking at the next trade conference, I mean, who’s going to go in there telling everyone else to jump on their bandwagon?

So those who are in the know will stay in the know and everyone else will think that the internet is a waste of time.

And that’s where me and my ideas come in. I’m working on something that can help bridge some of the gap for those of you who need merchandise and those of you reputable companies that have it to sell. It won’t be perfect, but it will be something. I’m hoping to have it up over the next month or so. It won’t be a marketplace, it won’t be an ecommerce website, it won’t be any of that. It won’t be super duper technologically advanced cutting edge because that doesn’t work either. It will be some blending of old school and new school, a happy medium.

But it requires a commitment on my part to make it work, a commitment to getting people to get involved. Look for it soon. Or a long time from now, depending on how complicated it ends up being to work out the logistics.

If you want to know when it launches, subscribe to the blog using that box in the upper right hand corner.