You are launching your startup fashion brand and you’re pumped up to start pitching. Top of mind is how to best position your brand to wholesale buyers. Often misunderstood, the job of a buyer is not only to look and find cool new products but really to act as an investment banker. Much of what a buyer has to do with wholesale fashion is financially motivated, based on margins, probability of sell through at full price, and minimums. At the same time they are getting that information of ‘sellability’ from a variety of sources. Read on for the five ways to make your brand more sellable to wholesale accounts.
1. Create a product that pushes the vision of your brand.
Companies that focus on delivering a product commensurate with their branding will be consistent seasonally. Each season what you deliver should echo your ethos, and your visual assets should push that 360*. Buyers want to see videos, campaigns and assets that highlight your product + vision.
“Successful brands invest in building a quality product, but also building a brand that customers are willing to pay for.”Alexander Chernev, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
2. Price your products properly.
Don’t create a product that costs $1,000 to make when your branding and marketing caters towards products that are $300. Pricing is an essential element of making your brand attractive. Wholesale buyers look for markups starting at 2x the wholesale price. As a new brand you should be looking to increase your markups between wholesale and retail so as to give retailers an upside in case they have to mark your product down. Retailers often need to put products on POS or markdown at the end of the season.
“Success at retail is about having a really good aesthetic and being good value, and that’s probably more important today than ever,” says Robert Burke, chief executive of advisory firm Robert Burke Associates. “The brands that are doing really well are very clear on what the brand is. They are specific to a product and aesthetic, and they have a great price.”
3. Get distribution on the right channels.
Where you are selling your products will tell a retailer about your market and customer base. Take a quick look at Barneys.com to see their brand list. Right now there are approx. 450 brands in the women’s category. This spans across RTW, accessories, shoes, bags, and jewelry of global brands. That’s not very many! While you may hear of brands like Co or Kara bags that launch into Barneys very quickly, it’s not a common story, so you should be focusing on getting into niche boutiques that at least put you around like brands. If you get into a store on consignment no one will ever know. Do a thorough audit on the brands in your competitive matrix and in your brand adjacencies to see where they are selling. Start there.
4. Be on the radar of those who matter.
Cultivate your brand message through those who talk about you. This means developing relationships with editors, stylists, DJ’s, musicians, artists, models, movers and shakers who have the ability to influence an audience. When hearing the word “influencer” most people automatically think of Instagram or bloggers, but to be able to have influence can happen in more subtle ways than paying $1,000 for an Instagram post. Look for ways to get in front of early adopters and influencers that are more organic. This might mean taking the time to cultivate the relationships.
5. Get the right people on your side.
Beyond impact through influencers or media, getting the right help is essential to your wholesale fashion success. Most brands who make it have worked with the guidance of industry experts who were friends, consultants, or advisors. In fact, if you ever decide to raise capital investment, who is on your team will be just as valuable as the product you make – if not more important. When pitching your brand, your advisors will guide you through tough questions, negotiations, and possibly open up those conversations to buyers for you. Build your inner circle- it’s key to your short term success and long term achievements.
As a startup fashion brand, you should be pitching and hustling hard. I was recently reading a story about the founders of Co who were profiled about their rise to success. The article made it seem rather quick- but they had started in 2011. Six years later and they get a write up in Business of Fashion. It took that long to be recognized simply because it takes awhile to establish, grow, pivot, and perfect. There is no shortcut around it. If you are reading this post and wondering how to put yourself in the forefront of today’s buyers in the best way, I encourage you to go back to the drawing board and make sure you’ve got everything tight. 30 seconds in front of the right buyer could make it for you and I’d hate to see you trip because of poor planning and execution.