Getting your fashion designs in stores can give you major credibility, exposure and prestige! Retail stores have large customer bases, lots of foot traffic, and well-marketed online sites that can really help to launch your brand!
For new designers, I recommend that you focus on getting your designs sold in small boutiques before trying to get into department stores to gain exposure and to learn the ropes. Small boutiques are usually more flexible for new designers and you can use the exposure in their store to help build up press about your brand.
Trend & Lifestyle
Do your designs cater to the stores target demographic? Do your designs fit into the lifestyle of the consumer? Does your product work with what is fashionable/ on trend in their stores? Make sure that you visit stores to make sure your brand makes sense there before setting up meetings with Fashion Buyers. You don’t want to waste a ton of time trying to sell your hipster clothing line to a store, only to realize that they focus on purchasing wear-to-work clothing for businesswomen.
Do you understand what customers are willing to pay for your product? How much are customers paying right now for similar products? Have you done your research? Stores have to be able to make a profit and you need to make sure you have priced your designs for you to make a profit before even meeting with any buyers. In a tough economy, Buyers are playing it safe when it comes to price, so this can make or break you.
Does your product sell itself just by being on a hanger or is it tricky and only looks good when a customer tries it on? Your product must function and look fabulous with no explanation/convincing from sales people. Product needs to have hanger appeal that will convince buyers that customers will see your product in their stores and will just have to buy it on the spot!
Fashion Buyers will want to know who else you sell your designs to. Are you established in other stores, like small boutiques or do have a big online following? Will your designs be exclusive to their store or is it the same product that you are selling in other stores?
You have to be able to ship your product on the agreed date. You cannot be late. Trust me, you don’t want to be late…it can become a very, very expensive mistake! If you are late on shipping your product, a buyer might decide to just cancel their order all together, which can potentially put you out of business if it’s a big order because you’ve already spent the money to make the product and now you have nowhere to sent it. Also, how often will you ship new collections? Generally, most brands ship new designs monthly, some ship new product twice a month.
Are you Ready?
Fashion Buyers want to make sure you are really ready to be in business. Their stores credibility is at stake if something goes wrong with your product (such as quality issues, late shipments, etc). Stores are taking a risk by doing business with you and do not want to be let down if you can’t deliver on your agreements.
If Fashion Buyers are excited about your line and you meet all of the applicable criteria that I mentioned in the post, they may want to give you an order. Buyers may want to “test” or try your product in 1 of their stores or in a handful of their stores. You will sell the product to them at a cost price (set by you) and you and the buyer will work out the rest of the details from there.
It can be a difficult for a brand new designer to launch their designs in well-known stores because of the lack of credibility and selling history as a newbie. This is why I recommend that new designers start out trying to sell to small boutiques. You can start out with a small order, as a test and hopefully grow from there.
Some new designers may decide to start out by doing consignment with small boutiques. Selling on consignment basically means that your designs will be put up for sale in the store and you will only get paid for what sells. Just be aware that this concept works to the stores advantage, not yours (there is basically no risk for the store if the product doesn’t sell). You will have to take back what doesn’t sell (or you can try sell it to the store at a discounted price).