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Online retailer Justine Hoagland, founder of Cloth, reveals how to buy smart from the heart.
BE FLEXIBLE: When I began this journey in 2016, I did a ton of research and had a list of brands I planned to carry. But it quickly became obvious this process wasn’t going to be so cookie-cutter. Many companies would only sell to brick-and-mortars, so I had to expand my horizons. Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to throw out the map! Keeping an open mind was what shaped my ethically sourced, high-end selection and promoted more creativity for seasons to come.
TRUST YOUR GUT: I’ve always considered myself a huntress. My best buys come from selecting what I love—listening to the feeling I get from that first impression. It’s not all about numbers. If I wouldn’t put my daughter in it, it’s not getting sold to my customer.
GET SOCIAL: There’s always going to be a time and place for traditional buying, but that doesn’t mean ignore new age opportunities. As a buyer, I find Instagram just as useful as the consumer. I go to trade shows like Playtime in New York, but I’m always searching the depths of Instagram for what’s new year-round. It’s perfect for that impromptu order.
MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS: I prefer to connect with a brand directly when possible. Meeting the designer and other brand executives is always such a rich experience whether it’s at a trade show or in my DMs. When I work with a showroom, it’s usually more impersonal and that initial relationship is make or break for me.
MIND THE DETAILS: I will go the extra mile for a seamless presentation because the first impression is everything—especially today. I almost exclusively use lifestyle images because it really shows the clothes in the life of a child. I pay close attention to how collections are presented, and if I don’t like a brand’s campaign I will either not buy or have looks reshot by my own photographer. All my orders are packaged with a handwritten note and a few sprigs of eucalyptus. I also have several direct message chains with customers on Instagram—checking in, giving them updates, suggesting product or just saying ‘hello.’ My biggest concern as I grow is keeping up with that personal touch. I don’t want to just be a store—I want to be a friend.