“Know your competition.” This straightforward piece of business advice has been repeated so often that it has become a cliché. Even so, many companies, especially those in the creative field, skip competitive analysis altogether, thinking that their product or service is so unique and ingenious, that it’s bound to become the market leader as soon as it hits the stores. But if you aspire to succeed in the business of fashion, knowing who you hang with (quite literally) is crucial, and here’s why.
No Competition? Not so great.
If you still think that having no competitors automatically puts you in a winning position, think again. Whether you’re planning to expand into an untapped market, sign a deal with a new store, or develop an original product, it’s unlikely that nobody has thought of doing something similar before. So analyzing why things didn’t work out for your predecessors and ensuring you can overcome those obstacles before you commit to pioneering a new strategy make good business sense.
Targeting & positioning
Unless you’re fully aware of the situation on the market, you can’t predict whether or not your brand will be able to fit in. So before you launch a line or break into a new niche, explore the retailing scene. Play a mystery consumer: visit the stores you like to see what other designers are selling, how they approach merchandising, what their clientele likes, or even just to get a general feeling of what their vibe is.
That way, you’ll gather valuable insights into your ideal customer’s psyche, get the gist of what drives them to buy, and adapt your product offering to meet their needs and wants. Moreover, zeroing in on potential retailing partners will help you perfect your sales pitch and land more purchase orders.
Does your collection look cohesive? Is it well-coordinated with previous season’s styles? Can it be mixed and matched with what other designers are offering? Have you incorporated your previous top sellers into the latest collection? Would it seamlessly integrate into your ideal client’s wardrobe? Can you imagine your line hanging in a particular store that you’re targeting?
Competitive analysis will serve as a litmus test, helping you identify if your answer to all these questions is a resounding “Yes!” Because if it’s not, you need to work on vamping up your brand’s buyer appeal by improving its continuity and relevance to the market.
How? By repeating and reinterpreting the most successful staples, weeding out “orphans” (styles that don’t really go with the rest), reworking the designs to make them more compatible with other pieces that your ideal customer tends to buy. Sometimes, you might even need to adjust your pricing strategy. But any changes will pay off handsomely in increased buyer interest as your line’s sell-through rate hits record high.
Successful entrepreneurs understand that assuming you know the business better than others is a recipe for disaster. Commitment to keeping a finger on the pulse of the market, watching what other companies are doing, analyzing why and how they do it, and never ceasing to learn from competitors’ wins and failures – that is a distinguishing feature of fashion brands that not just endure, but thrive.
About The Author: BridgeShowroom
Ken Nachbar is a co-founder and partner in Bridge Showroom. Ken loves working with designers, helping them open new doors, find new customers, and grow their businesses. With bachelor's degree in economics and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ken combines 25 years of management skill and experience with his passion for fashion.
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