Syama Meagher is the CEO of Scaling Retail. A retail consulting firm that works with fashion brands and retailers internationally.

All posts by Syama Meagher

Transitioning Your Fashion Business from E-Commerce to Wholesale

Transitioning Your Fashion Business from E-Commerce to Wholesale

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) is the phrase of the day as brands launch or shift their business models to sell directly to consumers. Benefits include enjoying complete control over their brands’ messages, collecting data and improving profit margins along the way. However, it’s important to remember the unique advantages of working with good retail partners – including increased marketing opportunities and brand awareness, an increase in revenue and a boost to your brand’s reputation.

You may have launched as an e-commerce brand but that doesn’t mean you’ll only sell through your website forever. Here’s what to consider as you transition your business from e-commerce to wholesale.

1. New Production Cycles

Shifting to wholesale means you’ll have to start operating on different production cycles. You launch your products online at the beginning of the season, but present seasonal collections 3-6 months prior to the delivery date. That represents a major shift to your business that you’ll need to be prepared to address.

2. New Pricing Strategies

Your pricing will have to change to adapt to your new wholesale sales model. And- don’t be surprised to see your profit margins change as you build in a wholesale price to your final retail price.

For example, let’s say a DTC brand’s cost is $20 per item with an online retail price of $50. Under a new wholesale model, cost remains the same ($20 per item), however, the wholesale price may be $40-$50 with a final retail price falling somewhere between $80-$100. While this is just an approximation, it paints a clear picture of why and how a shift in the business model results in new prices for customers.

3. Smooth, Sophisticated Operations

Your operations will probably need an upgrade. While shipping out of your home is acceptable if you’ve just recently launched your business, you will need some serious processes in place to meet wholesale demands. Take all of the steps into consideration, including barcoding, ticketing, poly-bagging and shipping.

4. Diverse Offerings

As you join the wholesale ranks, you’ll need to diversify your product assortment for success. If you offer the same products for wholesale as you do online, you’re not incentivizing customers to continue supporting your DTC operations. Keep them coming back for more with captivating styles that are exclusive to your site. In the same vein, make sure your wholesale products reflect the desires of your new customer base.

Tip: Consider offering capsule collections between seasonal drops or DTC-exclusive monthly product releases.

5. Expanded Reach

Look at your wholesale business as an extension of your brand marketing. Get ready to do a lot more event marketing- this time in-store and with your new retail partners. Events like pop-up shops and collaborations will be necessary to increase awareness of your brand.

6. Bandwidth Demands

As you branch out into an entirely new way of doing business, your daily responsibilities will change. You’ll need to stay in touch with retailers on a monthly basis, ensuring you know what’s selling and how your merchandise performs. This type of communication is non-negotiable. Without it, your wholesale accounts may not want to place reorders, turning your successes into one-hit wonders.

Be proactive. Prepare to increase your bandwidth accordingly.

7. Wholesale Access Online

Add a new password-secure section to your website, granting usernames and passwords to wholesale clients and potential wholesale clients only. This is where they’ll go to see lifestyle lookbook images and line-lists for all of your designs.

Also, be sure to add a stockist/retailers contact section to your website (with public access and in a visible location). If a potential sales partner visits your website and can’t immediately find this information, they could assume you’re a DTC-only brand.

Ready to expand into the wholesale business? Contact us for personalized guidance and expert professionals to help you execute – every step of the way. Email hello@scalingretail.com to schedule your consultation session today.

Scaling Retail on the Go: Coral Gables, Paris and Istanbul

Scaling Retail on the Go - Edition 1

It’s been an especially busy fall here at Scaling Retail- including trips around the world! Here’s a quick ab showook at some of our favorite recent events.

Scaling Retail on the Go - Coral Gables, Paris, Istanbul

A Digital Marketing & Social Media Workshop in Coral Gables, FL

I took a trip to hot and sunny Florida with two members of the Scaling Retail team, Logan and Jan, to host a workshop on digital marketing. The specific focus was social media and we brought together local businesses in the Coral Gables area to learn about their businesses and chat about topics like how to work with influencers, analyzing digital strategies and industry best practices.

Digital Marketing & Social Media Workshop - Coral Gables I was able to interview and work with three hand-selected brands – POOL LabShow (a really cool high end women’s design store), Pecan’s Day Spa and Cafe Curuba. I helped them strategize based on what’s happening with their businesses through one-on-one hour long consultations, before I gave a three-hour presentation to audience of 200! I emphasized how important it is to leverage social media (and how to activate it) and analyzed business’ websites to give personalized feedback and actionable next steps.

Store visits came next as we walked into several boutiques in Miracle Mile and elsewhere in the neighborhood. Finally, we closed the day by meeting with key stakeholders from the city to give a presentation on the importance of social media. These stakeholders were City of Coral Gables, Chamber of Commerce Coral Gables, The Business Improvement District (BID) and people from different local firms, including a rep from Zyscovich Architects.

My biggest takeaways?

1) I discovered that a lot of retailers didn’t realize how important social media was as a tool for driving traffic into their stores.

2) I found out that so many retailers were on the same block and they never spoke to one another! I pointed out the missed opportunity for collaboration for occasions like event marketing.

3) Over 30% of people in Coral Gables speak Spanish as a secondary or primary language, and yet marketing and advertising always appears in English. Both languages are typically spoken in stores and many store owners are even bilingual, however, their digital assets don’t reflect this. I highlighted the opportunity to be more sensitive to native language and explained why it’s important to utilize both languages in marketing materials.

International Fashion Academy (IFA Paris)

Traveling across the pond, International Fashion Academy Paris left me absolutely impressed! It’s a very hands-on, professional school and all of the classes are taught in English. All of the students have to do internships and get real-life experience which is something I think is really lacking in a lot of fashion education schools today. They usually teach a lot of how-to’s but don’t actually encourage you to implement them. Fashion is a very hands-on industry. You just don’t know it until you do it.

First, I was interviewed by Anastasios Sofroniou- an incredibly smart and knowledgeable IFA Paris mentor/designer/professor at the school. Next, came an inspiring Q&A session with students from the school. The sheer diversity among the group was fascinating! There were students from South America, Vietnam, India, Nigeria… so many different parts of the globe were represented. Their questions reflected a global audience too, with questions about topics like their local markets and sustainability. It was a very forward-thinking audience and they surprised with questions about politics, feminism and even being a woman in the industry. It was definitely an exciting and rejuvenating conversation!

Brand Week Istanbul 2017

Finally, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Brand Week Istanbul 2017 where my husband was a speaker! It was a cool event with a very global group of attendees – Iran, Switzerland, France, Mexico, Spain, The U.S…. And while the talks on stage were definitely inspiring, the conversations in the VIP room were the most riveting. All of the speakers would hang out there in their downtime, sharing ideas.

Brand Week Istanbul 2017We talked about how it doesn’t mean much to get a Cannes Lions Award as an agency. Ideas need to be fueled with outside funding and pushing the envelope for better marketing requires more with technology – and not just graphic assets.

We also talked about how it’s important to design based on market feedback. Don’t just design and push to market. Think about the market and consumer before you design the goods.

I heard Tom Goodwin’s talk and there are two things he said that totally stuck with me:

  1. Everyone in this room has lived in a pre-digital age and we’re not yet in a post-digital age. Meaning, technology is not yet totally integrated where everything is seamless. For example, you can open a new computer and not know if it’s a touchscreen – some are and some are not. Most of today’s technology is driven by taking something that existed pre-digital and copying and pasting it into a digital version. For instance, Amazon basically copy and pasted the idea of a catalog into the digital realm.
  2. The companies people consider to be tech companies are doing well (Uber, Airbnb and others). They’re seamless integrations of what we didn’t know we wanted or needed and now we can’t live without them. They use technology but they aren’t tech companies and they have new business models. They follow an empathetic way to create product that connects with the consumer. The best improvements in tech and products will come from things created with empathy. He says every company should be a tech company at heart. We cannot not be tech companies and flourish, similarly to how we always emphasize at Scaling Retail that every company needs to be a media company. Think of tech as the infrastructure and media as the external facing component.

Stay tuned for more of our international inspirations, projects and travel!

Scaling Up Through Strategic Partnerships

Scaling Up Through Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships can do a lot to boost your brand visibility and increase market share and profitability if done correctly. But the wrong partnership can cost you tens of thousands of dollars and end up a logistical nightmare. So the question is- how can you scale up your business through strategic partnerships intelligently?

Give yourself enough time. Partnerships don’t happen overnight. While you may get the sign off to proceed with a project or idea, implementation can take much longer. Just as you are managing your internal team with existing deadlines and bandwidth issues, your potential partner is likely dealing with the same. Appoint a lead project manager (PM) to keep an eye on timelines and both parties’ responsibilities. Bi-weekly or monthly check-in’s may be necessary in the beginning, leading up to more frequent communication depending on the project scope.

Let’s find the right partnerships.

Go Big.

How to Work with Large Retailers and Brands to Collaborate?

Lately we’ve been witnessing a lot of partnerships between larger retailers and brands with smaller emerging market designers. Nordstrom have been on the forefront of this. It seems every other month there is a new collaboration. Other retailers are following suit opening shop-in-shops, launching exclusive distribution deals with their brick-and-mortar spaces and elevating their own branded image by working with these emerging market brands. Larger brands are doing it as well. Collaborations between emerging market brands and companies like Levi’s have been giving visibility to brands that would otherwise remain small and niche. A great example is the Adidas x wings+horns collaboration. Adidas, known for collaborating to stay relevant, partnered with wings+horns on a collection of sneakers. This has taken the wings+horns brands to a much larger audience.

Also, don’t be afraid to step out of the box as long as the partnership falls in line with your brand. For example, Poketo has taken their well-curated collection of accessories and other stylish art and lifestyle products to a new pop-up shop at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in L.A.

The logistics of collaborations with bigger companies can take a while to negotiate and fructify so plan well in advance.

But how to secure these types of partnerships?

Reach out to the marketing departments of the companies you want to work with. This is your first point of contact. Even though you may be working on a design collaboration, it will be the marketing department that will determine if you’re a good fit and serve as your main point of contact.

Go Medium.

As a growing business, working with brands in similar positions to yours with different strengths can be very rewarding. There is an ability to be more agile and nimble and do things faster with a company that’s at the same growth stage you’re in. Look for brands that share the same values and target market but are pushing a different type of product. You can also find interesting cross-market collaborations between industries. Think about a yoga studio partnering up with a health food company or an activewear line partnering with the same health food company. These types of collaborations can be seen in event marketing and product collaborations. If you’re looking to partner with other brands that are producing products but targeting a different market, you may be looking at sharing supply chain resources. Companies like PACT are working with other manufacturers to buy cotton in bulk with famers. Imagine driving costs down without worrying about being cannibalized.

The issues I’ve seen when smaller brands do collaborations are centered on logistics, planning and financial liability. Do make sure you’ve got the right contracts in place.

Don’t Go Small. Not Yet at Least.

While you may get pitched from startups and brands that want to jump on board your growth wagon, be mindful of who they are and how strong your brand foundation is. Has the brand considered if this is really a good fit? Do they have a market or asset to add value to your business? Don’t just do collaborations for collaboration’s sake. This can be a huge time waster and cost you a lot of money. When working with smaller brands, events and organizations, make sure you have the bandwidth and that the ROI is clear.

Four Smart Strategic Partnerships and the Questions You’ve Got to Ask

1. Marketing Partnerships

What are the KPIs (key performance indicators) that will tell us if this is a success? How are we marketing the activation? Who are the key point people and stakeholders? How long will the activation run? What is the budget? What are the timelines?

2. Product/Category Partnerships

Is your company lending the design expertise? Who are the ultimate decision makers? What are the points of sale? How are the marketing, labor costs and profits being split?

3. Supply Chain Partners

How are you sourcing? What types of materials are you using? Is there a focus on sustainability? How often are you producing? What are your quantities for production?

4. Retail Partnerships

What are your goals and expectations for this collaboration? For my brand? Who will be responsible for which expenses? How will my brand be marketed and how will my products be merchandised for this occasion? How long will the activation period run?

When we look at the power of well-strategized, well-executed collaborations, it’s definitely worth it to give it a try. Just make sure it’s a authentic fit for your brand and that you’ve covered all of your bases and defined all of your goals.

Are you interested in scaling up via collaborations but don’t know where to begin? Email us at hello@scalingretail.com for custom, one-on-one guidance on business development for your brand. Or to learn more actionable tips on your own, visit www.ScalingRetail.com.

3 Sustainable Brands Doing Supply Chain Integration Right

3 Sustainable Brands Doing Supply Chain Integration Right

If you’re exploring different avenues for scaling up, you may want to think about supply chain integration. A properly integrated supply chain will give you more control over production (and thus your products), greater flexibility and the ability to decrease expenses to increase profits. It can also add to your brand story as you cut down waste and decrease your carbon footprint like three sustainable brands who have it down to a tee: Eileen Fisher, PACT ORGANIC and Reformation.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher is a really unique brand in that they’ve always been focused on the environment and sustainability although they’ve only recently weaved it into their marketing and branding strategies. They fabric and textile suppliers can be found from South America to Asia and they source sustainable materials like organic cotton and alpaca.

They have a full-time supply chain transparency specialist on hand for supply chain mapping and their goal is to reach 100% traceability in the near future. They have great relationships with suppliers and producers and make a point of being transparent about these sources, relationships, the condition of their facilities, how they treat their workers, etc. which shoppers can discover on the company website.

Another move to integrate the supply chain is moving more production into New York and California. They compare their 25% American production to the industry-wide percentage of 3% of American garments produced on U.S. soil. They’re gradually shifting more locally for greater flexibility, reduced turnaround time and, of course, to decrease their carbon footprint.

They regularly visit with their domestic and international manufacturing facilities and ensure all collaborators (vendors included) share and act on the environmental and social values and beliefs found at Eileen Fisher.

Eileen Fisher is raising the bar and setting new standards for eco-responsible brands in fashion. They make attractive garments with sustainable fibers, safe dyes, they’re increasingly sustainable and they make sure that all of the people along the supply chain are receiving good treatment. They’re leading by producing more timeless designs that lead to reduced waste and when shoppers are finally done with their garments, they can choose to look to Eileen Fisher RENEW. RENEW is a program for reselling previously worn garments that have been cleaned and sold as is or also repaired and/or repurposed.

PACT ORGANIC

PACT ORGANIC started as an organic cotton underwear brand but now they’ve branched out to offer other basic separates like hoodies and leggings. Because of their sustainable focus and use of organic cotton, they made sure to fully certify their supply chain with the trusted Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The certification means a lot of things, including that any chemicals used were not toxic and are biodegradable and that they haven’t sourced from GMO plants.

As for the designs featuring less than 70% organic cotton, they’re certified by Organic Cotton Standard instead. Like Eileen Fisher, PACT also makes sure their environmental and social values are held throughout their supply chain. They work with a Fair Trade USA certified factory in India so they know their products are manufactured in an environment where farmers and factory workers enjoy living wages, overtime pay, work transportation, meals and other benefits in a safety and healthy conditions.

Reformation

A week doesn’t go by without hearing something about Reformation – and it’s easy to see why. They have groundbreaking levels of transparency, sustainable products and production processes, an American factory, innovative retail stores and style that wins over legions of Millennial shoppers. They’re doing a lot right!

While the brand has been sold at places like Net-a-Porter and SHOPBOP, the bulk of its business comes from selling direct-to-consumer. They sell online – where they began as an e-commerce only store – and now also have a couple of their own environmentally-friendly, digitally-focused brick-and-mortar stores.

On the production side, they have their own L.A. facility – a factory featuring green infrastructure, green practices and a primarily female staff, all earning pay equal to or above living wages. Owning the factory allows them to easily track their carbon footprint which they offset with moves like planting forests filled with trees. As part of their ethos, any shopper can hop online and see the amount of water used and amount of carbon dioxide waste created listed for every design.

Reformation uses vintage materials, deadstock and eco-friendly fabrics. The new sustainable fabrics come from suppliers held to the same environmental and social standards they set for themselves. And since they own their own factory, it allows them to pivot much faster for moves like replenishing popular styles. In fact, Reformation introduces new product on a regular basis – similar to fast fashion companies – but in an eco-friendly way.

They get real-time feedback from customers via social media and data from the tablets outfitting every fitting room and they get real-time feedback from the production side too!

Reformation managed to achieve what was believed to be impossible – they’ve made sustainable fashion totally cool. They share all of the nitty-gritty details, they take shoppers behind the scenes into their production facilities and it seems like everything they touch just works – from their branding and marketing initiatives to their fun clothes. Their profile in the industry and quick level of success will likely lead more brands to see that you can do your part to take care of the environment while remaining stylish and turning serious profits.

Integrating Your Own Supply Chain

Take the time to examine your supply chain like these sustainable brands… all the way from where you source your materials to the production line. Do you know where all of your materials come from or how workers are treated along the way? Do you own any segment of your supply chain?

You may be shocked to realize that there’s tons you don’t know – sources and collaborators included! Start to consolidate the various aspects. Supply chain integration can help you produce in a more ethical manner and scale with lower production costs, greater speed and a lot more options.

Ready to scale up but you don’t know where to start? Contact us at hello@scalingretail.com for custom, one-on-one guidance. We can advise you through everything from capacity building to growing your presence in international markets. And for DIY tips, visit www.ScalingRetail.com.