An Immersive Category Learning Experience for New-to-Desk Buyers  1/21/2020

99 Cents Only Stores' Brandy Alexander with me at an ECRM offsite networking dinner

ECRM's category-based programs are a great way for buyers to effiently and effectively discover new products and meet new suppliers, but for buyers new to a desk, they are also a great way of getting quickly up-to-speed in the category by providing an immersive learning experience.

From the educational sessions, to supplier meetings, and all of the networking opportunities in-between, these buyers leave the program knowing the hottest trends, the latest product innovations, and with new relationships that will help them kick start their efforts in growing the category.

Brandy Alexander, Beauty Buyer for 99 Cents Only Stores, is a perfect example. I met her at ECRM's Everyday and Holiday Cosmetics, Fragrance & Bath Program, which she attended after coming on board at the retailer just one month prior -- not only new to the category, but also to the CPG retail industry. She took full advantage of every opportunity we offered, and left after four days with a ton of relationships and insights she'll be putting to use in her new role. Following is a Q&A from an interview I had with her during the program. 

ECRM: Which categories do you cover for 99 Cents Only?

Brandy Alexander: I am the currently the beauty buyer. I'm responsible for skincare, hair care, baby care, foot care, fragrances and sunglasses.

ECRM: In addition to discovering new products, ECRM programs are a great way for new buyers to immerse themselves in the category. You're a perfect example of this, being not only new to the category, but new to the industry. What were your goals in attending and how was your experience?

Alexander: I'm a month on to 99 Cents Only, so the company, and this category is brand spanking new to me, and I definitely wanted to come in with open mind, and with no intentions -- I just wanted to meet everyone. And I think this is a great example of how you put everyone in one environment and allow them to talk through their products and their brands. I've gotten a lot of information from different vendors on what they're all about, and they have a little bit more information on who we are, because a lot of people just think of us as only offering items at a 99 cents price point. But, having these conversations with them, we can let them know hat we also offer higher price points, we are working with branded guys, and that they can join our social media and just check us out and see what we're all about. 

I definitely think that having that two-way communication is invaluable to our business, because it does allow us to grow. And I haven't met everyone because I've only been with the company for such a short amount of time. Having them here and being able to put faces to the emails and all the other communication that we've been having prior to this has been great.

ECRM: You also were very active in our networking functions as well -- the breakfasts, lunches and dinners -- including the offsite dinner, and it looks like that's also been a good way for you to take advantage of the face-to-face opportunities and really connect with others in the industry.

Alexander: Absolutely. I feel like a lot of people tend to not let their guard down [in meetings], but I think it's easier for them to communicate and build those relationships when you're breaking bread with someone. So, I do my best outside of meetings to get to know people, who you are as a person, what do you like. And I've made a lot of friends in my career, as a buyer, in my other categories. There are friends that I still work with today or I still communicate with. So, I like to get to know people outside of work. And I like to become friends with who I work with, because this job, for me, isn't just a job. It's a career and it's something I love to do. 

ECRM: Well, you certainly accomplish that here in our programs! Welcome to the industry!

Alexander: Thank you!


Are you a buyer new to the category? ECRM programs are a great way to quickly get up to speed on category trends and connecting with innovative suppliers. For more information, contact Wayne Bennett, ECRM's SVP of Retail at


Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content


Eric Mizrahi
44 weeks ago

Joe, great work. Brandy, ravishing as always!!

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