Main Collections vs. Capsule Collections: Everything You Need to Know

How many collections do you need a year? And should they be main collections or capsules? As a new business owner, you might not yet know that there is a difference between the two. That’s okay—in this article, we’ll break down the difference between a main collection and capsule collection so you can confidently decide what’s best for your business.

Main Collections

Main collections are the big deliveries you’ll receive each season, primarily fall main and spring main. These products tend to be the largest in terms of breadth. They also have the longest shelf life when it comes to your website or the wholesale partner that you are selling to.

Capsule Collections

Capsule collections are shorter, edited deliveries of approximately eight to fifteen styles with shorter shelf lives. As a rule, you should have less inventory and units of products with a shorter shelf life. Chances are, you’ll be releasing them more frequently into the market.

Capsule collections are also associated with retail collaborations. For example, a Scaling Retail client did a collaboration with Shopbop. What did that look like? It was five different, highly edited and curated pieces. Shopbop chose the print, designed the dresses, and released it. They also did a lot of marketing with influencers and promotions around that particular capsule.

Capsules don’t just refer only to what you’re pushing out there; you can also go into branded collaborations with your retailers. But, brand owners, if you decide to enter into any of those kinds of agreements, make sure you discuss the marketing and advertising plans beforehand. At the end of the day, it’s going to take time and energy for you to collaborate with a retailer, and you want to ensure that investment is worth it.

A Year at a Glance

If you’re looking at going into the wholesale business with your brand or expanding into that direction, you will need to have a wide enough assortment to appeal to a wholesale buyer. Main collections are going to be extremely important to you as your wholesale buyers will also be looking to make substantial investments at particular times of the year.

Here’s an example of how past Scaling Retail clients have planned their year to include five collections. Their first delivery of spring is really big and robust—that’s their main. The second delivery in spring is a little bit smaller; it’s a nice shot of color. And then, they will also have high summer deliveries, as well as fall holiday and in some cases, a second shot of fall. In this particular business model, there are multiple opportunities to provide newness to both customers and retail stores.

Capsule Collections & DTC Brands

If you are a small Direct to Consumer brand and you want to test market your products, launching online with a capsule collection would be a great first step. A great example is VETTA. They have done an amazing job of launching a small, edited, sustainable fashion brand with themed capsule collections from every day to refined.

Small DTC brands can send you a big package deal and say, “Hey, buy all seven to ten pieces in our collection and we’ll give you a discount.” But, if you actually make that investment and buy the entire capsule to receive a discount, you might end up with products that don’t fit, or items you won’t wear.

So, buyer beware when it comes to buying complete capsule collections—make sure you really understand the fit and materials first. If it’s a new business, you certainly want to test out styles before you buy into the entire capsule; it’s a big investment with a lot of expectations. Now, on the brand side, really, that responsibility is all on you.

Assortment Planning

As you weigh your buying options, make sure you’re asking yourself the right questions. What is your business model going to look like? Do you want to be able to work and partner with wholesalers? In that case, you can have small capsule collections that come out frequently. Or, do you want to take advantage of big, volume-driving business and focus on main collections with shots of capsules in the middle?

Now, when it comes to merchandising your collections, whether it’s a main collection or a capsule collection, keep in mind what the assortment planning will look like. What is the ratio of tops to bottoms? If your goal is to sell someone on the entirety of the collection, you will need to have the right number of jackets, tops, bottoms, skirts, and dresses to be able to push for that kind of edited styling to sustain a “buy only what you need” type of philosophy. If you’re using this sort of language to describe your capsule, make sure your buyers know exactly what it is that they can expect from the products and how you’re using the term capsule.

Know Your Business Model

As you move forward with merchandising, assortment planning, and choosing your business model, also make sure your decisions are based on a clear understanding of design, production, and development.

For example, if you’re producing capsules every other month or every three months, guess what? Your design and development team is going to be quite busy because of the frequency of your deliveries. You’re also going to have to plan for more content and photography. You’ll need to build up your customer’s expectation that you will be offering new products at a set cadence.

Make it Work for You 

At the end of the day, you need to set up the game and set up your rules in a way that’s sustainable for your business. Don’t get caught playing a game catch-up, where you’ve created a big infrastructure but can’t actually keep up with demand.

For more information on how to drive home a smart capsule collection, make sure you check out our blog post on launching capsule collections and the logistics required to make them successful. And be sure to take advantage of our free download, The Scaling Retail Marketing & Budget Template to plan out all your marketing initiatives for the year, especially around capsule collections. Remember, marketing and merchandising go hand in hand. Never release a product without a distribution strategy, both for sales and for visibility.

At Scaling Retail, we’ve launched brick-and-mortar and e-commerce businesses all over the world. If you’re ready to take the next step in growing your fashion business, send us an email to hello@scalingretail.com.

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