How I Prepare to Buy Seasonal Inventory at a Tradeshow

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now — I’m obsessed with shopping! Shopping for other people, especially through the process of buying inventory, is one of my favorite jobs to do as the owner of Sophie Stargazer Boutique.  When it comes to my method, I liken it to taking my passion for personal styling one step further -- an adventure to find all of the absolutely most perfect things for every single one of YOU!

Bel Kazan designer Belinda Kazanci, and Sophie Stargazer owner Kristin Snyder at Coterie Tradeshow in NYC, September 2019.

To conquer this huge task, I make the most of my time by going to Trade Shows — huge event showcasing hundreds of brands to choose from. For my first two years I was in business, this process was pretty overwhelming. Now, after 6 years in business with my focus on ethically-made brands, and after getting to know so many of you, it’s become quicker and easier to weed through the options and find exactly what I'm looking for.

Last month, I headed to Coterie in NYC, the largest tradeshow for women’s clothing on the East Coast, to buy for Spring 2020.  That's right, buyers typically purchase inventory for our stores 4-6 months in advance! Here’s a peek at what goes into preparing for one of these trips so that I can make sure you have everything that you need and want for the season ahead.

My iphone picture of the entrance banner to Coterie NYC September 2019.

Review Items Already Ordered
Before I buy new things, I have to know what I already have coming in first.  Because orders are written months ahead of time, It is important to refresh my memory on what I already have on order from my previous trip. When shopping "slow fashion," or ethically made, I order based on Sample pieces and occasionally something is not put into production, and that frees up available funds or styles that I need to replace. Reviewing what I've already spent money on is critical-- the last thing that I want to do is order too many similar pieces.

Review Seasonal & Monthly Budget

At each tradeshow, most brands are showing the upcoming season, or even two seasons ahead.  However, many brands also offer select best-sellers that are still available to order within the current season (we refer to these as "Immediates").  Before I can spend a dime, I need to know exactly what my budget is for the months and season I'm primarily buying for, and any budget that may be available for Immediates.  Doing this makes certain that I stay on task and order only the best, without overspending. That's right, we operate on a super strict budget, just like many of you.

Review Upcoming Trends and Make Notes on Key Styles
As part of my process, I watch runway shows whenever I can to see what’s happening at the height of fashion. While these looks are typically not wearable for the average person, the trends represented are absolutely relevant.  Watching the runway allows me to see for myself the direction that fashion is taking, right from the top. I also regularly follow top bloggers, check leading fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and W, and read exclusive industry resources on upcoming trends and movements in the fashion world.  Combining all of this information helps me to pick pieces for you that have the best value for your investment, and longevity in your wardrobe.

Review Calendar for Any Promotional Opportunities
Finally, I review the calendar for the upcoming months and make notes of anything I may need to touch on for a holiday, event, or charitable opportunity  within the months I plan on ordering. This can be as simple as making sure that we have a selection of stocking-stuffer items for the holidays, sunblock for the summertime, and jackets for cooler weather. I can make sure that we have Americana- and feminist-focused pieces around the election, LGBTQIA+ items for Pride Month, fun dresses for the holidays and new years New Year’s, and something we can raffle off for an upcoming fundraiser. This also means that before buying, I really need to be up on my events planning too.

Transition to fall selections at Sophie Stargazer Boutique // Photography by Emily Hess.

Fashion is so much Fun! But Planning Makes It Happen

Not one single thing shows up in our store by accident. It takes a lot of thoughtful planning, from a financial perspective and from a fashion perspective, to offer you a full selection of items that are appropriate for every occasion in your daily life.  Whether you are looking loungewear or date night dresses, attending weddings or hitting the town, my goal is to help you to feel confident that when you walk through our doors you’ll be able to leave with something on trend, responsibly made, and handpicked just for you.



Kristin M. Snyder is the owner and buyer of Sophie Stargazer Boutique, an ethically-focused women's clothing and gift shop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania since 2013.  She holds degrees in both fashion design and fashion merchandising, and has worked as a professional wardrobe stylist for over 15 years.  She enjoys intentional travel, embraces authenticity and strives towards personal growth. She also maintains a deep love of coffee, pizza, single malts and dinosaurs.

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