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.
Anya Hindmarch just announced her men’s collection launch with leather goods and accessories, and last month Stella McCartney announced she would be debuting a men’s collection in November. It’s no wonder that brands are moving into the men’s market; with $440B in annual sales it’s certainly a market share worth capturing. Menswear designers have been making the transition to women’s as well. Brands like Rag & Bone, Public School and designers like Hedi Slimane have only in the recent past branched out to design for women. The women’s market clocks in a hefty $670B yearly.
As a growing brand you are probably wondering how this all affects you. Should you rush to develop a collection for the opposite sex simply to make more money? How should you test the waters? Lets break it down.
First- It’s important to address that collections can be designed androgynously, but when it comes to walking down the runway or showing the pieces in a lookbook you will most likely ascribe gender. The Squad, a knitwear brand out of LA does a great job of creating for both, but you will notice that the collections do have clear cross over between genders.
Second- Aside from aesthetics, the two products are very different. Women’s sizing versus Men’s sizing and fit. If your brand is very tailored for women, you will need to bring in the tailoring for men. This might mean hiring a new product developer to help create your designs.
Third- Branding, sales and marketing. It’s not easy to just create a women’s line after having a men’s line. You will need to pitch to different stores, develop a new marketing strategy and evolve what your brand identity is. This can be especially tricky if your collection will be produced under the same name and your brand identity was very gendered to begin with. Sometimes brands will create a diffusion name to help with creating a “new” brand.
Accessories are the easiest transition to cross genders. Anya Hindmarch did this as she introduced a collection of briefcases and iPhones marketed for men. If you notice that your collection already appeals to both markets try testing out different color ways and fabrics to see how each gender reacts. What’s also interesting about Anya’s story is that she waited until enough men were purchasing her products to warrant the creation of a new line.
Clothing can be difficult for the above-mentioned reasons, but it doesn’t mean the market demand wouldn’t make it worth your while. Smaller brands like The Squad do so with a small team and a highly focused vision. My opinion is to always think big and make a timeline for your growth. If you want to expand then start thinking about it now even if it won’t be for another few years. Retail is a long tail game, so play it to last.
If you are ready to develop a launch or growth strategy for your business send an email to email@example.com
Competition abound and you are out there trying to make a name for your brand. Its time to bust out the marketing toolkit and get the attention of your audience. Try these 6 tips on how to make your product stand out in a crowded market. If you need additional help creating a plan check out the Fashion Marketing Bootcamp– a 2 day seminar and workshop to plan the next 365 days.
- Your Last Email. Sending out an “Unsubscribe” email will notify your current list that you want them to engage with you. If someone has not opened one of your last 10 email campaigns they may not be worth having on your list.
- Get Physical. Every quarter send out a postcard or notecard to to all of you current customers. Don’t make it full of sales copy. Just a quick hello to show them you care.
- Loose Lips Friends. Ask your friends the next time they go shopping to ask if the store carries your brand. Little hints like that will get a store employee to google your name.
- Advertising Trick. Use images of influencers and bloggers in your products for advertising. Potential consumers love to see that your products are relevant.
- Pinterest: Take an already robust board and convert it to a sale converter by having all your products for sale on your boards and periodically dropping the prices in a “flash sale”. This will automatically put you at the top of the notifications.
- Dress people. Don’t just think about gifting celebrities think about dressing public speakers, and those in the limelight who may not be as obviously famous.
Most of all, have fun, try lots of marketing experiments just make sure to have your metrics and goals outlined.
Need help? Schedule a consultation! Email Hello@ScalingRetail.com
I originally wrote this post for The Storefront. If you are not familiar with them, they are the place I suggest all my clients check out when doing a popup shop.
Pop-up shops should be part of a robust 360° marketing strategy for any emerging brand. However, for businesses who are just dipping their toes into the physical retail world, selecting what to sell in a brick-and-mortar shop can be a daunting decision. This post is geared toward small businesses who are fired up and ready to activate a pop-up shop, but not sure how to manage inventory and product assortment offline.
Identify the purpose of your pop-up shop
Before you start planning your pop-up, hone in on the goals you want to achieve with it. This will help you pick the right product and structure your marketing efforts. For example, if you are using a pop-up to launch a new collection, you may not want to bring a lot of old sale merchandise. Similarly, if you are hosting a sample sale, keep full-price merchandise at home. Just because you have inventory doesn’t mean you need to put it all out at the same time. Be strategic and base your assortment on the goal of your pop-up shop. Need a place to start? Here are some common pop-up shop goals:
Test new items and collect pre-orders
Move old inventory
Launch new products and collections
Co-brand and develop partnerships
Build relationships with new and existing customers
Evaluate your marketing efforts
Taking stock of your marketing efforts can help in planning inventory. Why? Because you’ll need projections and expectations around how many products you might sell. Start by estimating your demand. If you expect low turnout, you won’t need to produce additional products. The more you know about how your marketing efforts are being targeted, the better you can prepare on the backend. For well-marketed events focused to your niche, expect a 5-20% conversion rate on people attending who will spend.
For this step, ask yourself the following questions:
How many people am I expecting to attend my pop-up shop?
Do I expect cross-over audience from a co-branded partnership?
Do I have a robust list of customers who have purchased from me before?
Managing your inventory
Before you decide to produce new product for your pop-up shop, it’s important to evaluate your existing inventory. Ask yourself:
How much existing product do I have? Is it enough for the space I have allocated? On the smaller side, you might be stocking a shelf in another store for a shop-in-shop. On a larger scale, you might be looking at an empty storefront with 650 square feet of space. Either way, do some quick math in your head to assess your products against your rolling racks, shelves, and other displays. Decide if you have enough product or if you need to rope in another brand collaborator to make use of the space you have. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to fit between 20-30 items (depending on size) for a rolling rack that is 75 inches in length.
Do I have my bestsellers on hand? Your bestsellers are the products that your customers love. Maybe you can reintroduce older bestsellers or market items with special “bestseller” signs or tags during the event. Customers love to see and buy popular items—make them up if you don’t have any!
Can I pull inventory from my ecommerce site or dead stock? Having full-price and sale items together can be enticing for existing and new customers.
Assortment planning is the process of evaluating your products based on viability of selling. Each season, you’ll get better at creating the products your customers want and pricing them correctly with minimal markdowns. For brand new businesses, however, assortment planning can be challenging. Depending on how much planning you have done in the development of your collection, you might need to rethink your line planning. To make sure you’ve planned effectively, consider the following points:
Fashion vs. basic items. Fashion items are trendy seasonal items that are hot for a short period of time. They are the first to either sell out or be marked down. Basic items are season-less; they are the staples of a brand and rarely get marked down.
Sizing is essential. If you are selling clothing, follow the 1-2-2-1 model per style and scale up from there. This means one small, two mediums, two larges, and one extra large. If you already have selling history on your sizes, use that as a template.
Margin development. Understanding how profitable your products are is essential. Your margin is the net profit on each item after you consider the costs and labor that went into creating it. Have you built in your eventual markdowns and sale pricing? Not all products have to adhere to a 2.5x markup from wholesale to retail. Some might only get a 2x markup and others 3x or even higher. Use your competitive matrix to figure this out.
Round out your offering. If your brand specializes in a particular item (like how Bonobos initially only offered one kind of khakis), then you need to focus on selling that one item. If you are selling a collection, then it’s important to make sure you are offering a wide assortment. In a casual survey of one of my classes at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, I asked how many tops and bottoms students had in their closets. One student had 13 tops and only 1 pair of bottoms! That doesn’t necessarily mean that all fashion brands should only be producing tops, but think strategically about what your customers need and your value proposition.
There’s a lot to think about when planning a pop-up shop. Often times, success is a combination of marketing, product development, and planning. For a new brand, this can be a lot to digest. Use these tips and your insight into your customers’ needs to create an inventory management and assortment planning strategy that will maximize your profits and keep shoppers coming back for more.
This post was originally written for Create & Cultivate by me (Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail). Create & Cultivate Is an Online Platform & Conference Series for Female Entrepreneurs in the Digital Space. Its such a useful post, I wanted to make sure my readers saw it.
Year one for every business can look very differently. This guide is for brands that already have a strong foundation (year 0) under their belt. Year zero is your startup phase and those startup costs should be considered separately. Some of those costs may include: Branding, Pricing, Website, Samples, Manufacturing, Marketing Plan, Sales Plan, Assortment Plan, and a Cash Flow Plan. While in year zero you are also determining if you will be a collection based brand (a brand that sells tops, bottom, dresses – a whole collection) or if you will be an item driven brand (a brand that focuses on making one particular kind of product – think Bonobos when they first launched). If you want to create a brand with a budget in mind, start with item driven products then expand later.
To make a business profitable your revenue needs to surpass your expenses.
- Know what you will spend money on this year, and cut accordingly. Make a list of all the activities for the year you think you will spend money on (marketing, photoshoots etc.) then start to rank them in order of costs and potential revenue (its tough to know exactly in year one what will make you money). Focus on only the top 3-5 opportunities. Brands waste a lot of money doing a lot of marketing activities poorly.
- Leverage networks to get things done and give yourself enough time to do it. When minimizing cost you need to trade off with time. Example: The less money you want to spend on hiring a graphic designer, the longer it will take to find a good one that is in your budget. This is especially the case when looking to leverage your current networks to execute on something. Your friend who is really good at X may not have the bandwidth to do you a favor for 3 months. So, plan accordingly. Star by making a list of everything you need to get done for your business, for this example we will use a selling campaign. You will need to hire Photography, Hair, Makeup, and Graphic Designers etc. Your next list should be everyone you know in your network, including Facebook Groups and other groups you are a part of. Finally have a list of things you can do for others. When writing the post message include your offer and see who is open to trades. The low end of a photoshoot done professionally can run you $5,000, so if you have the time to pull this off working within your networks, you might save a chunk of change.
- Don’t produce excess inventory unless there is demand. I’d rather you create demand through having a strong social media profile and 2-3 units on hand per item to sell online then to produce to your manufacturers minimum at a lower price and get stuck with aging goods. These days’ brands are launching with strong social media 6 months to a year out before the product launched. Why? To create demand, so when the products are available for sale, there is an audience. You do need some product to fulfill demand when your site launches, but wouldn’t you rather sell out and start to build demand, then have a lot on hand?
- Focus on Selling IRL. It takes time to build your ecommerce following, and to get picked up by wholesale retail accounts. I have noticed that my clients who focus on selling in real life at markets, friends and family events, trunk shows and through co-branded popup events see a far higher increase in sales right away. This is because people can touch and feel your collection and you can sell to them with your charm and passion for your product. Build each event with a 360* marketing strategy to take advantage of every dollar spent. Example: Have a friend at the event taking pics for social media, give shoppers 10% off if they follow you on IG, and sell samples/damages at a big discount to get rid of inventory you cant normally sell.
- Stop Treating Your Business Like a Hobby. Hopefully, since you are reading this, you actually want to make money in this business. This means you cannot have a 4-hour workweek or magically have a business you love. It’s just not possible. You should be clocking in 60 + hour workweeks if you are really hustling. If you have a day job, that means you are working on this nights and weekends and lunches. You need a plan of action. For every dollar that you spend and every hour that you spend on your business you need to outline the 3 ROI’s you are getting. Those ROI’s (return on investment) won’t always have financial implications, but they might have brand awareness implications and that absolutely will help you in getting sales. It takes the average brand 18 months of selling to really see a pick up in sales and to understand their customer. 18 months means 3 seasons of pitching, product development, sample making etc.
There is no magic wand to make your business profitable in year one, but there is smart planning and smart execution that can get you there. How you set up and manage your business goals and brand vision can bring you closer to profitability. But keep in mind, the industry is not set up so that the brands with the most exposure, press and sales make the most profit. In fact, many highly visible brands are in debt. But, by following the tips above you will keep yourself on the safer side of cash flow management and be a stronger, wiser CEO for it.