Retail buyer complaints

This is an unofficial list of top retailer complaints as based on feedback I’ve received from retailers over the past 10 years. Based on past experience with start-ups, here are the most common reasons a buyer will hesitate to pick up a product line from a new designer.

1. Bait and switch.
2. COD bait and switch.
3. Delivery: unauthorized substitutions.
4. Delivery: late shipping, mis-shipping orders or not shipping at all.
5. Customer complaints (items don’t endure or look awful after washing).
6. Can’t fill back-orders. Out of stock on key items.
7. Fail to communicate when they’ll ship.
8. Fail to communicate dropped styles.
9. Quality and consistency.
10 Fail to communicate the knowledge that retail staff needs to sell the products.
11 Variety and styling.
12 Return authorizations
13 Work hard to get the order, then after that, they don’t pay attention to anything.
14 Unfair terms for different accounts.
15 They don’t understand retail or they don’t care.
16 Lack of professionalism; for example, not knowing what a purchase order is.

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  1. MW says:

    1. Bait and switch.
    3. Delivery: unauthorized substitutions.
    9. Quality and consistency.

    You know, the funny thing about these three complaints is that the more and more I am in business, the more I realize that there are many problems in the supply chain when it comes to sampling and production.

    Since I am not selling to retailers, I don’t care if the trim on a sample is not the final trim, if I am just working on a fit sample. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at market and reps have commented that the ___ on a sample wasn’t the final trim/color/pattern (or they say they are going to change something about the sample). I often wonder how many buyers they forget to say that to. I think that’s a huge issue when it comes to selling to retail buyers as so many companies are in a rush to produce samples that they do have some items that are not fully final but show it anyway.

    8. Fail to communicate dropped styles.

    I hate knowing about dropped styles after I get my order. One time, the dropped style was something I was making a set out of (i.e. coordinating items) and I had to raise a fuss to get an RA for it.

    16 Lack of professionalism; for example, not knowing what a purchase order is.

    kathleen, I have to say, one of my biggest pet peeves about some DA’s is not just that they don’t know how to create a PO, line sheet or whatever, it’s that they don’t understand what wholesale pricing means. They offer you a line, most of the time they solicit you, and then they say wholesale is 30-40% off their retail price.

    I can’t even be bothered.

    I remember one prospective DE complaining that a “stupid store owner” marked her products up double the wholesale price and who would ever buy them at that price.

    I was just shaking my head at the whole thing.

  2. Lucky says:

    Hi, Im sorry, but instead of a comment, I actually have an question. I was recently offered a nice position in my uncles clothing factory. He has a successful business in clothing back in his country; however he wants to expand his business by bringing it to foreign boarders. My question is how can I utilize this opportunity in creating a name for his clothing company. I mean, he can create possibly any design necessary for the market, I just don’t know where to begin and who to talk to about having the needed clothing, just not the actual design. So I guess I’m actually looking for a designer willing to invest in the quality of our cloth.

  3. bente says:

    I know this post was posted many years ago, but I still have a question to MW or anybody that can answer; how would you normally calculate retail price here in US?
    When I manufactored and sold women’s wear (middle upper target) in Scandinavia some years ago the retail used a 2.8 calculation (ex: whole sale $100 and retail $280). I am now working with children’s clothes.

  4. Bente,

    If you go to the Forum, you can use the Forum search (not the big box in the top bar but the smaller icon in the next lower bar) to search for “keystone.” This should give you a good start.

  5. Brundha says:


    My Name is Brundha and am working as a Retail buyer for a company having its own retail brand. In this company, I source garments of my own forecasting report as it is a local brand.

    I would like to know how a franchise retail company works and what is the responsibility of a buyer in that company because they have to be inline with the original brand right.

    Kindly let me know. Thanks.


  6. Ed T says:

    Yup yup.. My first time selling.. boy that made ANY and ALL school crits like tea-time…Delivering ON time MOST IMPORTANT!!!!…Man I still remember even with a cold, I finished making and then had my mom drive us 2 hrs to the boutique to drop off the order…It was worth it because the items sold out within a wk!…unfortunately this time the RETAILER(aka owner) never returned my calls I only found out later she wanted to reorder but too busy and forgot(opening 3 other stores)…sigh have to seriously rethink the whole “Have my own line” thing…lol

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