Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The sales trail....

It's a long one - hence my lack of communication for the last few weeks...alas...where do we begin.....The start would be a good place I guess.

SO....continuing along the lines of taking the label back to basics, stripping it bear and focusing on a stronger identity and message I decided NOT to show at LFW this year and the collection didn't even grace a showroom. Why is this you say...? Well my theory was that I wanted feedback. Good, honest, straight-forward feedback, from the horses mouth as you may say... the thoroughbred stallions and mares in this case, being many of the boutiques who would ideally stock the collection now or in the future.
SO Dick Whittington here packed up shopped and went on a road trip...I even ended up in NYC!

(there it is....)

I literally went to boutiques, took them lookbooks and showed them the collection..."I was just passing and...." ( I shall now force myself upon you until you buy all of my collection and pre-order the next 5 seasons!!). Sometimes it worked and sometimes I saw the end of a risen, flared nostrilled nose whilst being ushered out the door and tentatively wished "good luck"...Well I didn't like your store anyway...huff.

For me the exercise was of course to introduce retailers to the collection, but also to talk through each piece and to see what bits worked for them, what didn't and how they could see it moving forward. It was sooooo helpful and I actually ended up adding a couple of pieces last minute with their feedback in mind.

The Maxi box pleat dress - available in Ants and Elephants

The box pleat skirt - available in Penguin, Winter Penguin and Elephant

There is also a shirt dress - picture to come

I also used the opportunity to discuss opinions on the easiest and most effective ways to get collections in front of a buyer every season... the options include:

- A show, presentation or exhibition at London Fashion week or any of the others.
- Joining forces with a sales agent and going in a collective show room where the agents get people down and sell you stuff but also take a percentage.
- Paying for a space in a showroom with other designers so you have passing trade but doing the sales yourself.
- Trade shows in the UK and worldwide
- Doing everything yourself. Including going to see shops and buyers at their shops, using spaces rented or borrowed to pop up a rail and show clients.
(I am sure there are other options but these are the ones I discussed).

The tube, for example....

There are also things to consider such as international sales agents who can help you break into American or Asian markets for example, but im going to focus on the UK market for this blog session.

All these questions were asked so that I can make an informed decision on how to present the collection next season, what platforms suit the label and where buyers prefer to go.

- It was pretty inconclusive....everyone had a preference but they were all different....naturally. It is apparent however, the scale of designers who are knocking on the door of these boutiques. One owner said she gets up to 50 email a day from designers. So you have to be eye catching and different in what you send and how you send it other wise and email or letter wont even get opened. Cut - throat indeed.
- Fashion weeks are sometimes more media focused and sales and buyers can be lost in the thick of it
- Agents can take quite a big cut so it is tossing up he balance of whether the amount they take is worth the sales they generate.
- Trade shows - It depends what you target market is as to which show is right for you but on the whole quite a lot of buyers seem to like this option as they are easy, they focus on sales and they are before fashion weeks, which shows that designers are organized. However many designers do not like to showcase collections before fashion week so this is a big negative.

- By doing the sales yourself, you run the risk of looking unprofessional and also you do not have as many contacts and as much dedicated time as an agent would. However it is more personable and you can build relationships with buyers and get even more feedback! If you share showrooms with other designers you can feed off each others trade and it is more impressive to have a nice space to showcase your collection.

Ill keep you posted on where we decide....