This used to be a very simple answer: two. But in recent years business models have changed on the retail side and on the vendor side. Ever since the market crashed in 2008, retailers have been in the mentality of buy little and buy often. They don’t want to be heavy in inventory and risk high markdowns. This puts brand owners (vendors) in a precarious position with manufacturing. If a vendor doesn’t have the capacity to produce reorders quickly and often then they may loose out on potential sales. Retailers are also looking for more newness more often. They need to keep the retail landscape exciting for consumers. This recent development in inventory management might spin your head and leave you asking: How many collections do I really need to produce?
Lets take a step back within your own business model. What type of business do you want to create? Do you want to focus on slow and sustainable- one collection a year? Or do you want to deliver newness every 3 months in stores? Maybe its twice a year. This is about what drives your desire for brand longevity. How often do you want to do photoshoots, sampling, pitching. You can choose the model, but then you need to stick with it. Consistency is Queen here.
Capsule collections vs. Deliveries vs. Full Collections
There are many ways to deliver product, so lets clarify what they are and how to take advantage of them. Capsule collections have become a favorite amongst brands. Capsules are simply a collection that has about 5-15 skus and are significantly smaller than a “normal” collection size (30-70 skus). I use quotes here because normal is a very subjective word and we all know that fashion is a subjective industry. Brands will introduce capsule collections when testing product ideas or to create exclusivity- limited number of styles and units available.
Deliveries are the dates that your product ships into the stores. Did you know that you could offer to have many deliveries within your full collection? One Fall delivery can arrive 8/30, 9/15, 10/15, 11/1. You can break it up so that there is newness often. And if you pitch and sell it as such, your buyers can then determine how often they want newness.
Full collections refer to the entire collection you are pitching. You can control the frequency by which you release new collections- some brands only sell Spring and some only sell Fall. Other brands do both and include transitional deliveries so there is newness between season.
One comment I hear all the time is: Why are we delivering Spring in February when its still cold out? Retailers know that consumers buy when its needed and that why the “trans” deliveries become an interesting marketing. Trans – short for transitional – is that amazing time of year between spring and fall (Jan/Feb and Aug/Sept), when you are buying markdowns in store and also looking for something new and wearable at that moment.
Once your determine your business model of choice its time to reconcile that with the market. How you communicate that to your buyers is critical. You have to be clear about the deliveries, sku counts and how your product will merchandise season over season. Remember, each collection needs to be able to sit next to one another – one might be on sale and one might be full price but they shouldn’t look like two different brands. When pitching to buyers you will need to be clear about your business model. Your line lists and PO’s should be very clear on delivery dates.
If you are selling online direct to consumer keep in mind that just because you haven’t sold what you expected to sell for one season doesn’t mean it lets you off the hook from creating another season. Too often I hear brands tell me that “its still new to someone”. At the end of the day your brand collections must evolve to tell the story of your brand- even if that’s one collection a year.
So, how many collections a year?
It’s really up to you. Think about your long-term strategy and let’s play with the new business models. This concept doesn’t just apply to new brands. If you are launching a diffusion line, a new retail store or revisiting your current business model, its not too late rethink your retail strategy.