Western & English Today

Spring 2017

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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Page 12 of 35

SPRING 2017 Western & English Today 11 martphone in hand, a shopper can easily search for the products you carry in store online, and possibly find them elsewhere at a discount. How can retailers stay relevant without playing the pricing game? One way is to offer a unique shopping experience that can't be duplicated, no matter how adept a customer is with his or her iPhone apps and Google searches. Store exclusive products, co-branded items, and even private label goods can help retailers be a sought-out resource with unique items for their clientele, especially if store buyers really know their customers. While not black and white in definition, "store exclu- sive" typically refers to an item sold via one retail partner. Perhaps the manufacturer tweaks a color or fabric to please a retailer or offers a unique pendant design to a store. The product still car- ries the label of the manufacturer and adheres to the brand's aes- thetic, but it's exclusively avail- able through one retailer. Co-branded items are also considered store exclusives and are made in the same quality of the manufacturer's other offerings, but they often have a design element that is specified by the retailer and showcases labels and packaging that promote both the brand of the maker and that of the store. Stores often develop their own "lines" of products made by different manufacturers that are each designed to speak to the core consumer or geographic area. Private label goods do not usually integrate the man- ufacturer's label, only that of the store. They are made at the request and the design of the retailer, and while savvy shoppers may guess the manufacturer by style, the maker's brand is not published, promoted, or utilized. Stores often use this when they find a maker that doesn't have a well-known brand in their industry, or to keep their sources a secret. Stores seek out makers for items that they cannot find through regular channels and often use this concept for small maker or artisan goods. One success story is Kemosabe (Aspen, Vail, and Las Vegas), a store that is very well known for its individual "look." It uses co-branded exclusives and private-label Kemosabe merchandise in footwear, hats, silver, and leather/bags categories. Wendy Kunkle manages many of these relationships. "We must be different to stay competitive and to go against online-only companies who don't have the high overhead we have, as well as manufacturers who are selling direct," Kunkle says. "We know our customer very well, and since we are timeless and classic in our designs and product selection, we aren't worried about quick trends. We are 75 percent exclusive product in our stores, which make us a destination." Kunkle says Kemosabe has always had a selection of exclusive products from smaller makers, and as it's built trusted relationships with larger vendors, the store has been able to move more product categories and inven- tory to exclusive designs. She says that since Kemosabe stays true to its brand and customers, it is able to create lasting designs that stand the test of time and coordi- nate with items customers have purchased in the past. It works with Rios of Mercedes, Stallion, Lucchese, Old Gringo Boots, The Bohlin Company, Vogt, and others on Kemosabe exclusive designs with co-brands, and it works with small local makers on Kemosabe labeled items in hats, jewelry, and leather areas, truly curating a distinctive inventory. Pinto Ranch — which has stores in Houston, Dallas, and Las Vegas —is a retailer that very much values its vendor partners' brands and only uses co-branded products when it can't find what its customers are looking for in a line's regular offerings, says merchandise manager Mike Burchett. When Pinto Ranch sees a void in the market, it seeks out a trusted resource that pro- vides the high standard of quality the store is known for, and they work together to develop something special. Still, a good deal of the inventory is tweaked to be exclusive to the store, with heavier emphasis on the boots, and it also offers Pinto Ranch-labeled men's shirts, sport coats, pants, and accessories. But Burchett emphasizes that Pinto Ranch wants to not only provide unique offerings for customers but also to utilize the manufacturers' known brands, building the store's name alongside its vendors. When working with a manufacturer or vendor, both stores suggest that it's very important to work with trusted partners with whom you have an estab- lished relationship and a history of business. When you know how a manufacturer ticks, what its quality level is, and how its line sells to your customers, it's easier to be confident in developing a new design or store line. Likewise, vendors are more open to doing something exclusive for you if you have a good relationship and reputation built over time with them. How vendors approach co-brands and store exclu- sives varies slightly based on the product category and the size of the manufacturer. Ryan Vaughn, executive vice president of Rios of Mercedes and Anderson Bean boot companies, does quite a few store exclusive designs, as well as private label. He says that his stores often build up to a store exclusive. They start by trying

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