Creativity was the easy part. After getting your design from paper to reality, you’re left with the arcane decision on how to get it to your customer base. Option A: do what everyone else is doing to sell their fashion line. Hey, if it worked for them it should work for you, right? If there’s anything we can learn from the short-lived quail eggs trend in Nairobi is that ‘flock mentality’ can hurt your business endeavours. Alternatively, there’s Option B: figure out what selling channel could work best for your brand.
But first… Set the preconditions
There’s always going to be an array of experience and suggestions on what you should go for as a brand. The best way to filter all that advice, wanted or not, is to set up some gauges that will help you know if that selling avenue makes sense for your line.
- Budget: Can you afford to meet the requirements of that sales channel and still make a profit? Or, will you be dipping too much into your finances and making a loss?
- Location: Are your target customers likely to shop there or interested in the concept? Will you be able to collect customer feedback, as well as, strengthen relationships with existing and future suppliers?
- Bonus Perks: Will this sales avenue provide the opportunity to learn something new and useful? In addition, does it create the right networking environment to help grow your brand?
- Goals: Does it compliment my brand’s unique business objectives, as well as, my personal ambitions?
Now that that’s settled, we can look at the pros and cons of the different ways you can choose to get your line out there!
Most boutique owners are also the buyers and managers of the store. This gives you the unique position to create a relationship and rapport with them and thus convert them into consistent buyers. If your brand has the capability of selling wholesale, boutiques tend to bring in bigger orders than if you were to sell directly to the customer.
For this to work, you’ll need to find a boutique owner you trust enough to be ‘partners’ with. You also must contend with the tight shipping deadlines. Any tardiness could result in a cancelled order. Then there’s the monetary impact. You’ll need money to produce the wholesale volumes before payment and then you’ll have to accommodate the stipulated terms of payment collections.
Bigger stores could indicate a higher volume of foot traffic. That means, more people will be exposed to your product and having a known store house your brand can be a form of validation. It also means that they’ll be making bigger orders from you because they have a higher purchasing power!
Where do we start? They could ask for a discount because of the volume they’re ordering. It probably won’t be easy to meet the buyer or build a relationship with them. In fact, buyer turnover in department stores is significantly higher. If you think the deadlines with boutiques would be hard to manage, don’t even look in the department store’s direction. Oh, don’t forget the additional costs you have to consider such as their shipping policies which include chargeback, markdown money and EDI (electronic data interchange) software.
This may not be the route you want to take as a new designer or as a brand that still hasn’t developed a strong base. Because you’ll be part of a large machine, you also lose some control over your brand. For example, your products can be surrounded by items on sale which you believe cheapens a brand considerably. Or because there are different brands in the store, the sales staff won’t be able to understand your products or brand on a detailed level.
Unlike boutiques and department stores, this is less of a risk as you don’t have to produce certain volumes upfront. With what you have, you get to set up in a location and take advantage of their established customers. It can be at boutiques, charity events, special events at spas, country clubs or hipster bars, as well as, collaborations with other complimentary brands. It’s a creative and interactive way to service current clients and meet a fresh audience in their ultimate habitat; while making sales of course.
There’s quite a bit of preparation and planning that goes into a trunk show. You have to think about all details; from set up and decoration to logistics and feeding your staff to mention a few. As much as the hosting venue may be marketing for you, you’ll also have to do a chunk of your own promotion to draw as many people to your stand to avoid disappointment. Depending on what you’re selling, space can be a bit of an issue. Then there’s also the fact that success isn’t guaranteed. You may not get as many customers coming through your stand or as many sales for that matter.
If you’re new to the industry, this could be just one of the ways you get your designs noticed by potential buyers. Done right, and you’ll be able to leave a positive impression. With market leaders and competitors together under one roof, it provides the perfect opportunity to gain valuable information on the industry. This could be about technological advancements, the directions the industry is moving in and advise on how to make your brand even stronger. You could even use the event to test out a new marketing material such as a website or even a new product you’re working on. If the networking opportunities aren’t convincing enough, trade shows are also central locations that draw gigantic crowds that could help push additional sales. It doesn’t hurt to make a little extra coin.
The most glaring disadvantage is the cost of participating in a trade show. If you add up the sponsor and exhibitor fees with logistical fees such as promotional items, staffing, travel and lodging, collateral and shipping, it’s certainly not a cheap undertaking. If you are new and at the anticipated trade shows (the kind that lures the top competitive companies) you’ll probably go unnoticed. And if you have inexperienced help at the booth, you’re really not doing yourself any favours. However, if you opt for the smaller trade shows, you may miss out on the possible networking opportunities. Worse still, they don’t attract as qualified industry leads as the larger events, which hinders your learning agenda.
Owning your own store or space in a store definitely comes with its incentives. For starters you get your money from the customer immediately. You can also tap into your creativity for events that can promote them and help to drive sales too.
This isn’t for you if your marketing skills aren’t up to scratch. To be more of a Debbie downer, you’ll need time and cash to keep the store alive. The overheads can be very pricey, especially if you’re not sure how the market works just yet. An example of just a slice of this juggling act would be having to deal with all aspects of having employees (sick days, training and managing them, and paying them too) as well as insuring you’re managing inventory like a business pro!
If executed efficiently, it can be an easy and amusing way to getting your products to your customers. It cuts on the cost of a physical premises yet provides a variety of platforms to get your marketing message out there. We live in an era that designers are successfully selling their merchandise via Instagram which is predominantly a visual platform.
Just because you’re site is up and running or because you’re being hosted on a pre-existing site, doesn’t mean the masses will come running. You’ll have to develop a strategy of getting traffic to the site and making sure they are converted to customers who buy. What you gain from omitting a physical address comes back to bite you with time-consuming shipping and delicate customer service situations.
This temporary outlet idea allows brands gives brands the opportunity to extend their presence beyond their online reach. They get to meet their customers one-on-one in different environments and have the opportunity to test out the market to make improvements. So not only are you getting a free or relatively cheap space to showcase, but you’re getting great PR for your business and they can increase their sales. This includes offloading old stock.
Part of what makes pop-ups so charming are the unconventional places they appear. However, trying to convince landlords and managers for the space can be a little tricky. If you do get permission, you have to set-up and tear down the booths each weekend. And the customer turn-up isn’t guaranteed. Some weekends will be great sales wise and others will be a complete bust. Those great sales are also dependent on your ability to sell the limited stock you brought since pop ups tend to be hosted in small areas. Then there’s the fact that this isn’t a permanent solution since this model’s strength is its temporary nature.
Any of these selling categories can help you get sales rolling in for your brand. You can even tap into multiple categories, if they meet your brand’s goals. However, it can’t be stressed just how important it is to do your homework and set your criteria’s before spending money and time on any of these options. Nevertheless, once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, don’t forget to tell your brand’s story, build your networks and customers’ base, as well as, give them something to talk about.