Understanding Open to Buy: Lingerie Retailers’ Buying Strategy

By Ali Cudby


In the first part of this Buying Strategy series, we talked about the philosophy of creating a store’s Open to Buy.

To review, an Open To Buy calculation allows your store to map incoming inventory against expected sales. It is important to begin by thinking through your inventory across the main product verticals, such as bras, bottoms, shapewear, etc. Once those basic categories are determined, you can further refine them by key subsets – style, size, and color are some essential groups.

All of this begins with a basic understanding of your projected sales for the next season – approximately six months – broken down by month.

Your inventory needs also have to take your promotions into account.

  • Are you running any promotions or having any events during that month?
  • What holidays are coming up and what does that mean for buying?
  • Which seasonal items are needed?

Your needs for February are going to be skewed by your Valentine’s Day sales, while your April inventory should be geared toward your Mother’s Day promotion. Those holidays can mean different kinds of products and sales.


Before you start putting any numbers into a spreadsheet, take some time to map your planned promotions for the upcoming season.

Now that you have promotions in mind, think through your store’s brand promise in order to ensure that you are matching the products you buy with the customers you serve.

Who are your ideal customers?

Which product types do they buy?

What size ranges do you serve?

What does that tell you about possible expansion at the product level?

Defining your brand promise and aligning it with the needs of your ideal customers are topics covered in my recently published eBook, 7 Steps to Boost Your Lingerie Business. Those are prerequisite steps to the work needed for your buying strategy.

With all this in place, you’re ready to start thinking through the numbers to map your buying strategy for the season.


Start with the beginning of the month inventory for January. This is your best estimate of the amount of inventory you’ll have in your store as the New Year begins. For the sake of an example, let’s say you start the year with a $100,000 BOM (Beginning of Month) number.

Then estimate the amount of sales you’ll have in that month. Again, for this example, let’s say you estimate doing $30,000 in business in January. That leaves you with $70,000 in inventory. Of course you always need to have inventory on hand to keep your store looking rich and well merchandised.

Knowing that January is a relatively slow month and February is a big month of sales with Valentine’s Day promotions, you want more inventories in your store for February. Your End of Month (EOM) number for January is the same as your Beginning of Month (BOM) number for February. Let’s say you want to begin the month with $120,000 in inventory. That means you need to flow – or order – $50,000 in new stock for February.

Then keep repeating this for the remainder of the months in the season.

A fully implemented buying strategy is simple to understand but take real dedication and understanding of your sales to apply strategically. The work you invest in your business will be paid back by a more efficient workflow with better inventory management, a smarter approach to mark downs, and an improved process for serving your customers most effectively.

Stay tuned for a look at markdowns and their role as a tool in your business.

2 Discussion to this post

  1. Don says:

    Thanks for the education, I used to know this stuff , but needed this refresher course.

  2. Don says:

    Thanks for the education, I used to know all this stuff, but have forgotten most!

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