Many designers become very frustrated (sometimes even angry) when none of their collection pitches result in purchase orders from buyers. The harsh reality is: retailers don’t have it as easy as it might seem. With rising rent and upkeep costs, as well as considerable marketing and personnel expenses, they just can’t afford to stock product lines that won’t sell. As much as they might love the fabulous items on offer, they will shy away from buying into new designer brands to protect themselves from associated risks. As Miracle Wanzo of the Fashion Incubator aptly points out:
“One of the challenges that many retailers face is that the greatest product is often not the best selling product. Likewise, what sells the best is not the product they would have preferred to push but it sells so that’s where their money goes.”
The good news is: by addressing buyers’ main concerns upfront, designers stand a better chance of getting picked up by a store. So we’re lifting the veil on strategies that will help you tackle retailers’ major pain points.
1. Size & fit
Customers will only buy clothes that fit right. And since size runs usually vary by designer, your line will become much more appealing to the retailer if you take the time to develop detailed size charts. Sticking to one size run (S, M, L or 2, 4, 6) is also a good idea, as it ensures consistency both for the ultimate consumer and the buyer. And if you’re planning to sell abroad, make sure your sizing chart corresponds to the standards that are common in your target country.
But size is not the only parameter to consider here – you also have to be able to meet buyer expectations with regard to the fit. That’s why it is important to have a skilled pattern maker and a perfect fit model. Additionally, you must be clear on your line’s target demographic and the brands they you’ll “hang with” to minimize possible fit issues.
2. Returns & exchanges
Any retail business’ survival depends on customer satisfaction. So if you can guarantee that you’ll replace or repair any damaged items, as well as provide excellent client service post-sale, you’ll have no trouble landing deals with stores big and small.
3. Quality assurance
No matter what you design and produce – apparel, accessories, shoes – quality validation has to be your top priority. Each and every item produced and shipped to the retailer has to be as impeccably crafted as the sample you’d shown them. Otherwise, nobody will want to do business with you.
4. Long lead time
Typically, about six months pass between the day when the collection order is made and the time when seasonal styles finally become available to consumers. To make the buyer’s life easier, manage your deliveries carefully and dispatch shipments on time. Do your showing and selling closer to the retail season, and offer buyers designs that won’t be a fad and won’t go out of style before they hit the stores.
With little data on customer preference, getting the forecasts right is probably one of the biggest pain points for fashion buyers. Not only do they have to predict which trends will be on the rise a year from now, but they have to determine what will be popular with their store’s target audience. Therefore, designers producing collections that have timeless appeal are always on top of a sensible buyer’s priority list.
In the end, it all comes down to one simple truth: distribution is a two-way street. So if you do your best to produce well-made styles that are appealing to a wide audience (i.e. easy to sell), retailers will go out of their way to push your brand, making it more recognizable and commercially successful.