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Sales numbers, store visits guide her inventory decisions

shoes shelf 1761_rgbThe first rule of display at a Libby Story store is that everything must make sense.

Arrange it so people will want to buy it. “That’s my God-given talent,” Libby Story McRight says.

All the pieces along a wall must work together. “So if I wanted those jeans you could wear any of the tops that are with it,” she says.

In today’s market, women shoppers aren’t eager for sales help. So McRight is constantly trying to set the merchandise up to sell itself.

“I have a lot of designers come to work for me but they don’t realize merchandising is a skill in itself.”

Here’s another Libby Story McRight marketing rule: The only thing permanent is change.

That goes for newly arrived items as well as inventory that is selling briskly. “I can’t tell you how many times something comes in and I don’t like it. So I take it and change it.

“I try to make sure we have tons of variety in not many sizes — 2 to 4 smalls, mediums and larges.”

Most Libby Story inventory has the lifespan of a snail darter. And for good reason, McRight says. “I want us to have constantly changing goods.”

Customers don’t want to walk in a month after a visit and see the same things. That gives the impression of staleness, McRight notes.

Hot-selling items can fall into this category as well, she says. The trick is to change out the inventory by replacing the top-sellers with items similar but noticeably different, says McRight, who majored in marketing and minored in fashion merchandising at Mississippi State University and Delta State University.

A self-described “math nerd,” McRight started college as an accounting major. Though she switched to marketing, her knack for numbers has helped she and her husband, John Hunter McRight, keep track of how inventory is moving.

She’s up at 5 most mornings without an alarm clock. “In the morning, I usually look at buying, making sure I have enough bulk. I have an accountant, but I enter everything into Quickbooks so I know where everything is going.”

Sales numbers and store visits guide her inventory decisions, McRight says. “When you’re in the store you know what you’re doing well and where you’re not doing well.”

The McRights have put their stamp on specialty retailing in the region without borrowing. That frees them from having to rely on return-on-investment ratios to guide their retailing decisions, Libby Story McRight says. “Everything we do is out of our own pockets… Over the years we have built up enough that we don’t have to worry about” cash flow to acquire new inventory.

“That’s unbelievable,” said Margo Kopman, principal of Insight Retail Solutions, a St. Louis-area consulting firm that specializes in advising independent specialty retail stores.

Kopman said most independent shops such as the ones owned by the McRights usually must secure financing through banks. “This is, of course, with collateral and a solid financial plan that incorporates an accurate sales forecast and inventory plan,” she said in an email.

While borrowing is not in the McRights’ plans, opportunities for opening new stores are always on their radar. Even an excursion of a few days to the beach is likely to find Libby looking around for potential store sites. “Because I love what I do, most vacations center around what I do,” she says. Soon, she says, “You may see us in bigger cities.”

A goal she hopes to fulfill at some point is the marketing of a Libby Story line of clothing. She hints that some discussions have occurred with people who could make that happen but declines to give details.

“That’s really what I’m working toward right now,” she says.

She notes she already has the “Lenna Agnes” line of rings, bracelets and other handmade goods, named for a great grandmother who had “a cool name.”

“If I do my own brand it will be all new clothing,” McRights says.

She says she hopes to have the manufacturing done in Mississippi and would want one variety of her brand sold exclusively at Libby Story stores and another through other retailers.

We’ll have to wait to find out more about the visual styling that would go into a Libby Story women’s apparel line.

She’ll let us know when she knows herself, she says. “I’m not big on putting myself in a box.”


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