Open letter to designers

When launching a brand, designers spend a great deal of time, money and energy developing a concept and producing a collection. Sometimes without giving any thought on how the sales will be made. Sales are probably the last 10% of the formula and without it, all you have is an concept and some overpriced clothing ( hope you made them in your size). Sales is the success of any brand. Sure you can have a cult following, an underground assembly of elitist fashion snobs that beg for your next collection, but that doesn’t pay the rent.

Sales, real sales are hard. The typical pattern is you sample your first collection and find yourself as the only sales person; truth is you will be your best sales person… no one will be more passionate about your line than you. I heard you all say you are not salesmen; true! Few are born with the natural gift of hustle but it can be learned. You might think, well I’ll just hire a professional sales rep, a road rep, a showroom. It’s been my experience that anyone worth their name is not going to take on a new brand without any track record. They will not put their name on the line for an unknown brand because if you don’t produce (which sadly most of you won’t), they will be the ones the buyers/retailers will be angry with. Now they will take their monthly fee, let your participate in trade shows but without selling you, just “showing” you and collecting feedbacks.

Now I will try to explain how buyers buy. And here is my disclaimer for everything I tell you here, there will always be an exception. Buyers set a budget known as OTB ( Open To Buy) they do it by the season and for each product category. Before each of the buying seasons they look at their sales, trends and margins then they allocate their “dollars” to the brands that made them the most money.

So when you are launching your first collection it’s important to be the first ready with samples. You want to “preview” the collection so MAYBE the buyer will take a chance on you and save some ” dollars” to test the collection. If you get this far on your first season…you better be on your A game with fit. Mostly likely they will want to see you again next season but most likely won’t buy you until your 3rd season and with you having had some traction in the market i.e. selling other stores…I know Trust me I know! I told you sales are a bitch. Buyers want something new but familiar.

At the same time some PR, some celebrity placement and my favorite, trade recognition all have to be happening. Here’s the slap in the face, if you get some great PR and have no retail placement it is almost worthless because the consumer wants it now and the buyers want it in the stores yesterday.

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