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

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.

 

7 Ways to Scale Up Your Fashion Business

7 Signs You Need a New Business Model to Scale

Do you feel like you really have a handle on things and that you’re ready to take your fashion business to the next level? Before you develop any growth stage plans, find out if you’re actually ready to scale and seven ways to make it happen!

It seems simple enough- implement new strategies or build out your team and watch the additional revenue pour in. In reality, that can’t be farther from the truth. You have to have a solid, healthy business foundation in place or your brand and bottom line can suffer in a big way.

Your fashion business may be ready for the next level if you’ve been seeing success in all of your current sales channels and you know for a fact that you have a compatible (and profitable) product-market fit. That means you’ve proven your products are wanted by consumers and that there’s a sizable enough market to grow your business (i.e. as opposed to a niche that is too small, certain handcrafted goods…).

It’s also time to think about growth when you need support. Maybe you’re a solopreneur and you’re unable to do more with your sales and  because there simply isn’t enough time. This is when you reach the point where doing it all on your own becomes a major obstacle to your success. Maybe you have a small team of 2-3 people but you’re not able to keep up with all of your business’ needs – and forget about outside opportunities!

In both of these scenarios, you’re preventing your business from taking off and you’re actually losing money by not investing in expanding your team. If you can secure the resources and know-how to do it (capacity building, infrastructure, etc.), scale up by hiring a professional team or by taking on a few additional team members. If that isn’t an option for you right now, scale up by hiring outside help from freelance professionals.

Speaking of resources, what are your finances like these days? If you have the cash flow to invest in building out another revenue stream, go for it! But you don’t necessarily need to have tons of cash on hand to be able to grow to scale. You can also scale up with the help of investments from outside investors.

And finally, it may be the right time to scale up if you dream of creating something even bigger than what you’ve already established. So go ahead and chase those dreams (with the proper planning and preparation of course).

7 Ways to Scale Up

1. Expand Your Market Geographically.

Once you’ve reached a certain level of business in your geographical target market, it could be time to move forward into a new region. This can be done through exploring new wholesale accounts in other regions as well as via expanding internationally online. If you do go the digital route, keep in mind that this isn’t as easy as turning on your shopping cart for worldwide shipping. You’ll have to really dive into everything it takes- including regional-specific marketing and advertising, payment types and currencies.

2. Venture into E-Commerce.

After you’ve achieved a strong wholesale business, it’s  a good time to start thinking about selling direct-to-consumer online. A successful e-commerce shop of your own means you’ll be able to enjoy your own well of customer data, more precise branding and increased profit margins.

3. Launch Your Wholesale Business.

The same is true the other way around. If your e-commerce business is solidly established, this may be the time to explore potential wholesale accounts. Think strategically, be selective and remember that it’s better to be in the right stores than in the most stores- maintain exclusivity.

4. Open a Retail Store.

Ignore the news reports insisting “retail is dead” because the industry is only transforming for the better. In fact, for the most part, it’s the bigger brands and big box retailers who are suffering most. Why? Because they continue to present more of the same and they lack a sense of “newness”. If you’re ready to open your own store, by all means go for it. Choose from a single brand or multi-brand shop and think outside of the confines of what already exists. We love what Apolis is doing with their NYC shop. They’ve based their brand and entire business model on social enterprise with production in L.A. as well as places as diverse as Uganda and Peru via advocacy projects.

5. Create a Lifestyle Brand.

You can also scale up via product extensions. Look at your business strategically and assess what should come next. Jason Wu just launched an adjacent product line at New York Fashion Week – branded phone chargers, headphones, Moleskine notebooks and Sharpies!

6. Develop a Diffusion Line.

Target another price point for the chance to reach another group of customers.

7. Get Vertically Integrated.

Start to bring elements of your supply chain in-house to gain short-term and long-term benefits such as greater control over your brand and sourcing and producing for less. You can also create a new revenue stream by manufacturing for other brands!

Need help scaling up? Contact us for personalized support for everything from team building and market entry strategy to brand extensions and CEO advice. Schedule a consultation session today. For DIY international growth strategies and support, check out our e-book, Going Global.

 

 

How to Hire the Right Team to Scale Up

How to Hire the Right Team to Scale Up

Hiring is a major factor when you’re growing your fashion business to scale. Your modest team of a few talented professionals was perfect in your startup days but bigger plans and more initiatives requiring a suite of new responsibilities and skills calls for definite growth when it comes to your most important resource – the people behind your brand. Use these tips to help you make the wisest hiring decisions.

Here’s advice that holds true across the board, as well as specific hiring tips as they pertain to leadership positions and support staff.

First Things First

No matter the position you’re looking to fill, always begin by assessing personality and enthusiasm. Your new hires can’t just be talented. They’re also going to need to have the right personalities to build on the overall synergy of your team. Also, having the skills, experience and personality for the job won’t stand to benefit your brand much if they just don’t have the passion. The initial excitement can quickly wear off and you’ll find yourself trying to find new ways to motivate them or they may not waste much time before simply moving on.

Take a look at your potential hire’s background. The retail industry is huge but not all of its categories are easily transferrable. For example, a potential hire who has acted as social media manager for a tire company has had a totally different experience than someone who has done the same job for the fashion industry. Look for candidates with experience in your sector, with the exception of roles that aren’t sector dependent – such an executive assistant.

Finally, be sure to include a non-compete clause in the contract of every one of your employees. This prevents people from getting your secrets and then running away to apply them at the firms of your competition.

Welcoming New Support Staff to Your Team

While it’s tempting to mine personal contacts, here’s a big caution: don’t hire your friends as employees. Unless you feel comfortable telling them what to do and they’ll feel comfortable taking your instructions, these types of arrangements can quickly go sour.

When it comes to office positions, it’s best to hire seasoned professionals. If not, you’ll need to train on everything from communication to software which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. You also don’t know how much time it will take for them to get used to all of their new responsibilities.

Finally, don’t discriminate against people who may have too much experience based on only reviewing their resumes. These days, people go through multiple careers and they’re a lot more open to big life changes. If a candidate fits the bill and has a great personality, why not? Most of these potential hires tend to be independent contractors so just be careful that you aren’t breaking any labor laws. If you need them to work in a fixed environment for a fixed amount of time, it may legally be time to transition them into salaries.

Leadership Hiring Practices

For leadership positions, look for people who have experience doing the same exact role at another company. Don’t hire anyone who simply “thinks” they have what it takes and don’t get too impressed by resumes from big corporate backgrounds. Corporate candidates are used to working with bigger teams and bigger budgets so their experience tends to be worlds away from what you have to offer – unless they were part of a startup or incubator at the firm or somewhere else. Leadership positions will usually account for your very first salary hires so be extra careful about your contracts and HR procedures.

Before You Make the Hire

Now that you’re ready to hire top talent, make sure you have all of your on-boarding materials in place. Take some time to figure out what benefits you can offer generously to employees. Maybe you can’t afford dental and health but you can afford a one week paid vacation, a clothing stipend or a matching 401k. Next, get a comprehensive payroll system (such as Gusto) and have everything set for smooth accounts payable/receivable. Be sure you can pay everyone on time while also being able to follow up on receivables with ease.

You don’t have to scale up on your own. At Scaling Retail, we help businesses grow with a comprehensive array of custom services including capacity building, rebranding, wholesale sales strategy and product extensions. Email hello@scalingretail.com to schedule a consultation session today.

How to Work with Micro Influencers

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail, and today let’s talk a little bit about how to work with micro influencers. You know, micro influencers are really the next big deal. Editors, bloggers, they’re all taking a look at these micro influencers in order to see what they’re posting and what they’re trending. It’s so interesting to see how in this age of influencers, and I say this very heavy, because obviously these guys charge a ton of money, these big influencers – but in this age of influencers, the micro influencers are really where it’s at. So today let’s unpack how we work with these guys, how to negotiate rates, and ultimately the best ways to engage with them.

So firstly, it’s very important, guys, I did a recent panel over at Conde Nast with the editors of Vogue, of W Magazine, and they were telling me that they were actually paying more and more attention to micro influencers, and the reason why is that micro influencers have much higher conversion than their large-scale influencer counterparts. Now when I say micro influencers, what I mean are essentially the influencers who have just a couple thousand followers. Maybe they actually only have about, you know, a 2% engagement, but possibly it’s even higher because these guys are in a more focused atmosphere.

Next, when working with these micro influencers, it’s important to really understand in this new era, some of them are not even sure that they can be charging money, or really how much they can be charging. So one of my favorite things to do when working with them is to simply offer up an email and say, “Hey, can we collaborate? Is there an opportunity to trade, or can we see how we can work together?” As opposed to saying, “Can you send me over your rate sheet or your ad sheets,” right? Those are obviously things that we’re used to seeing from larger influencers.

Of course, guys, these micro influencers are going to be growing just as the large-scale influencers did about five to seven years ago. So trust me, they’re going to be growing in size as well as in what it is that they’re asking for in terms of payment. So if you can get in on the ground now and start to activate with micro influencers, you might find actually, that you’re going to get a better rate, and better exposure, and better conversion than you would if you jump on this bandwagon in about a year from now.

Now of course, I’m hyping up these guys, but how actually do you evaluate them and where should you be looking? Well, personally I think it’s very important to take a look at smaller cities where these micro influencers might actually be able to have a much larger visibility in terms of their market. So when you think about places like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles that can be oversaturated, when it comes to micro influencers, think about smaller cities. Think about going global, right? Think about all the different places where your product might actually reach a more targeted audience that might actually convert a little bit better.

Now next, like I mentioned, you want to make sure these guys are turning over some great conversion. So take a look on their likes, take a look at who’s commenting, and do a little bit, you know, further digging. See who these people are and make sure that they’re real people and not just bots. Again, micro influencers do not have millions of followers, they might have 5,000 or less, so keep that in mind as you’re perusing.

All right guys, good luck with launching your micro influencer campaign. Remember, this is a new, hot marketing strategy. This is something that’s not going to be around in the next few years as these micro influencers continue to grow. Certainly there will more and more that are entering the space, but you definitely want to make sure that you get in on this trend before it blows up. If you want tips and tricks about how to do digital marketing, head on over to scalingretail.com, and if you’re ready to have us help you with your social media strategy, shoot us an email at hello@scalingretail. Please subscribe, follow our YouTube channel, it’s one of my favorite places to be, but we’re also on Instagram and Facebook. We are where you are. All right guys, have a fantastic day. Thanks, bye.

 

Learn the Basics of Content Management (and Key Terms to Master It)

Learn the Basics of Content Management (and the Key Terms to Master It)

“Content is king”. I think we come across this golden quote by Bill Gates every single day. And while he said it all the way back in 1996, it’s as relevant as ever. High quality, professional, engaging and properly branded content (and on the ball content management) is crucial to building any brand today – especially in fashion.

So What Exactly Is Content Management?

Content management is the process of collecting, managing and publishing the content you create to promote your brand and add value to your target audiences. This includes anything from sharing articles on Medium to optimizing YouTube videos with proper keyword coverage to get in front of a sizable group of the people in your market.

Your content management and production team will help you create, promote and manage your content so that it adds value to your target audiences and that it gets seen by as many people in your target audiences as possible.
The copywriter will craft high quality copy (a.k.a. text) in the form of anything from your website content to blogposts, placed articles, case studies or white papers. While content management tasks consist of taking this content and putting it to use by sharing it on social media, engaging with those who respond, scheduling blogposts, prepping posts as per best SEO practices, planning content to be written, creating and maintaining your editorial calendar and more. Finally, the photographer will shoot and edit all of the gorgeous images you need for use in your social media accounts such as Instagram and Pinterest, your lookbooks and seasonal campaigns, product shots for e-commerce and/or catalogs, editorial images and other must-have imagery.

As you scale up, you’ll definitely need to think about expanding your content production team with a copywriter, content manager and photographer. These are all trained professionals with their own languages and lingo that you’re going to have to learn if you want to be able to engage, interview or hire them.

There are tons of special words and phrases in the fields of copywriting, content management and photography, but our brief glossary of terms will give you the essential terms you need to know.

Glossary of Terms

Advertorial: a newspaper or magazine ad sharing highlights about a product that is written in the style of a news or editorial article.
Blog: a web page or website featuring written content in an informal or conversational style that is updated on a regular basis.
Blogpost: an individual entry in a blog.
BTS: BTS stands for behind-the-scenes and refers to anything that occurs behind the scenes of photo and video shoots as well as any images taken on these sets that are not a part of the actual shoot.
Call Time: the time someone needs to arrive to a photoshoot set.
Case Study: analyzing real events or occasions in business to illustrate the efficacy of business principles or practices and establish the brand as an authority.
CMS: CMS stands for content management system and refers to the software platform you use to share content such as copy, photos and videos.
Copy: written text.
Copywriting: writing text for advertising or other forms of marketing.
E-Book: a digital book typically created to serve as a marketing tool offering valuable resources.
Editing: changing copy in some way such as to improve it to read better, to streamline text, the reduce word count, to remove extraneous words, to resolve grammatical and syntax errors, et al.
Editorial: high quality, creative images designed to be used in publications such as magazines.
Email Copywriting: written text to be featured in email marketing campaigns.
Fact-Check: the act of double-checking information contained in a piece of content to ensure it is both up-to-date and accurate.
GIF: a file format that can be used for images that are either still or animated.
JPEG: a common file format for photos, also JPG.
Lookbook: a set of images showing detailed looks of every garment in a collection to be used for marketing and selling, such as introducing the products to store buyers.
Mood Board: Images brought together to share the inspiration, mood and direction of an upcoming photoshoot.
MUA: MUA stands for makeup artist. You’ll likely need to hire a freelance MUA and hairstylist whenever you have a shoot featuring models.
Newsletter: an electronic or paper edition of content arriving in regular intervals (i.e. monthly or weekly) containing valuable company news, product information and more.
Photog: a shortened word for “photographer”.
Product Description: text providing website visitors with all of the necessary details about an SKU such as features, characteristics, colors and fit.
Proofreading: reading content to identify any errors.
SEO: SEO stands for search engine optimization is the process of preparing content to be shared in a manner that will bring more traffic to your website.
Sponsored Article: an article that appears in a publication or blog but is paid for by the featured company and is identifiable by an appropriate disclaimer.
Target Market: individuals and groups of people a piece of content has been created for.
White Paper: a valuable educational tool that simultaneously informs readers, markets a business and establishes authority.
Wrap Time: the time a photoshoot is expected to come to an end.

How many of these terms did you already know? The more you understand about content management, the better equipped you’ll be when it comes to hiring these professionals and communicating and approving all of your different content management initiatives and strategies.

And of course, you don’t have to go it alone. How do we help brands? Our clients turn to Scaling Retail for content strategy development and holistic marketing execution. What are your current content needs? Get in touch to schedule a consultation session today.

Why You Need a Retail Calendar for Your Fashion Business

Why You Need a Retail Calendar for Your Fashion Business

A regular calendar just doesn’t cut it when it comes to the fashion business. You’ve probably heard of the retail calendar before. If you’re not actually putting it to use- you’re missing out. Unlike most relics of old retail, the retail calendar is not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s old school but timeless. It’s your go-to tool to get results and tackle sales planning and forecasting like a pro.

Here’s a couple of reasons why you should start using a retail calendar today…

Account for Variations in Time.

If you take a basic calendar and compare this day last year, you won’t get accurate results. However, the retail calendar will give you a clearer picture of the difference between this time this year and this time last year. This is because it accounts for different variations and variables. For example, this year June 12th falls on a Monday but last year it fell on a Sunday. The retail calendar provides the sales day equivalent of today’s date last year instead of simply the same date a year earlier.

The retail calendar is a 4-5-4 calendar. It allows you to compare sales week over week and year over year with comparable periods of time and standardized variables.

Track Holiday Sales.

The retail calendar lets you understand which holidays fall on which days. Not every holiday falls on the same day every year so it’s really valuable for planning. Use your retail calendar to organize sales/markdowns, newsletters, pop-up shops, events and more. When you know when holidays occur over a few years’ time, you can accurately compare sales performance while understanding the how and why.

Determine Delivery Times.

This calendar helps you determine when deliveries need to happen so you can figure out the best week to drop products. Download the National Retail Federation’s retail calendar to start planning production dates for the next few seasons.

See the Bigger Picture.

Add a retail calendar to your fashion business arsenal! You can look at your brand on the macro level- viewing a year in the past, today and two years into the future. Being able to assess this huge chunk of time all at once is really valuable.

Pretty much everything in the fashion industry is accounted for really far in advance because of the fashion cycles. In August, you’re selling Spring/Summer of next year to wholesalers while releasing Fall/Winter online and in stores. You’re also prototyping and developing samples for Fall/Winter of the next upcoming year. Expect to deal with three different seasons at any given time and use the type of calendar that rises to the occasion.

As a fashion brand owner, there are a few calendars you need to have onboard. Get a marketing calendar, one for sales, an accounting/financial calendar, another for operations and – the most important calendar of them all – the retail calendar. Most of these are based on the fiscal year so they’re not a lot of help when it comes to production cycles. But with the right calendars in place, you’ll have a much more accurate interpretation of what’s happened in your business.

Get a good grasp on the past, the present and the future.