Feb 19

What You Don’t Know About Sales May Hurt Your Fashion Business

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

A lot of emerging designers are very creative but have no clue about sales.  They work really hard on their brand and their product but they are so intimidated by the sales process that they ignore it till the last minute.  Then they realize “oh shoot, I have to sell this, what do I do now.”  Unfortunately waiting till the end of putting together your line and then thinking about sales will most assuredly will hurt your fashion business.  You need to be thinking about sales from the beginning to ensure that you actually have a viable business.  These are the things you need to know.

  • Who your customer is.  How can you even start designing if you don’t know who you are selling to.
  • Where your customer shops.  In order to develop a solid sales plan you have to know where you are selling your product.  You must ascertain what kind of stores you need to be in.  Or are you going to sell on line or are you going to do both.
  • Have a sales plan.  Knowing who you are selling and how you are selling them is a strategic step in building your fashion business.  Will you hire sales reps?  How many?  Will you have your own showroom?  Are you going to do trade shows?  These are questions you need to answer in order to develop a solid sales strategy.
  • Are you going to sell the line yourself?  If that is the case learn how to be the best salesperson possible.  Sales takes a lot of skill to be successful.  It is more than doing a fashion show or showing up at a trade show.  So learn how to do it.  I know some designers who are great salespeople and were very successful in building their brand.
  • Do you need to hire someone to sell for you?  If you aren’t going to do the sales yourself you have to hire someone.  Whether they are an in house employee or a rep you need to have dedicated sales people.

A business without sales is a hobby.  So if you want to have a viable business with solid profits learn everything  there is to know about the selling process and have a plan to execute it.


Feb 15

6 Mistakes Great Leaders Never Make

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Everyone makes mistakes.  Even the greatest leaders ever make them.  But, great leaders don’t hide their mistakes or blame them on someone else.  Nor do they run from them.  However, great leaders are careful not to make these mistakes.

  1. Hide from problems –  Great leaders face issues head on.  They are solution oriented and know that by procrastinating they only exacerbate problems.  They also don’t let problems throw them because they know that it is part of the job.
  2. Do not create conflicts within their teams –  Have you ever seen a manager who takes pleasure in creating competition between employees?  I’m not talking about contests for most sales of the month, but the kind of competition that causes intrigue and backstabbing within a group.  They also show favoritism which can create rivalry that distracts people from the mission.  Good managers foster good relationships between team members.
  3. Do not operate secretively – A secretive boss is one who delights in power over others.  They also create an atmosphere of distrust and insecurity among their staff.  By keeping people in the know great leaders develop loyalty in their team and also get their staff to champion the goals of the company.
  4. Give positive feedback for a job well done and constructive feedback when mistakes are made – I recently had a client who’s staff worked incredibly hard for the company and gave their all.  Rather than complimenting them on a job well done he was always complaining about what they did wrong.  The staff was miserable and ultimately lost their motivation.  People work hard for leaders who appreciate and acknowledge them.  And if they do make mistakes they appreciate learning from them rather than feeling judged.
  5. Give credit to their team – Success is never from one persons efforts.  It always is a group effort.  Great leader share commendations with their staff.
  6. They don’t pass the buck –  A good leader doesn’t take all the credit for the success of their team but they also do not blame others for their failures.
Feb 07

5 Steps To Prepare For a Fashion Trade Show

By Maria Pesin | Sales , Vibe Consulting

Moda, Magic, Coterie, Project, so many shows and so expensive to do.  There was a time when you just showed up and you could book business.  That is no longer the case.  As business at retail gets tougher the shows are not as successful for manufacturers as they used to be.  That requires you to pull out all the stops to insure you do well.

I still find brands doing little or nothing to market their booths.  Yes, many make them pretty.  They have line sheets and swatch cards and maybe a look book too.  However without the sales and marketing component in place you basically are crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.  And that never works.  So here are the 5 steps I suggest.

  1. Make sure your sample line looks amazing,  not just good but great.  You should have correct fabrics and colors in good quality.  They should coordinate and make a strong presentation.  If your line is not well put together or the samples aren’t correct it is a red flag to a buyer and will cause her to move on.
  2. Have all the collateral materials you need.   Being organized and making it easy to buy is important.  So have business cards, swatches, correct line sheets, order forms, and a press book if you have one.
  3. Teach your staff how to sell.  I once was at a show looking through the rack of a line and the salesperson didn’t even stand up.  She told me the delivery and not much else.  That was a missed opportunity for the line.
  4. Contact your accounts before market to try to set up an appointments.  They won’t always give you one but you want to be on their radar.  That doesn’t mean one email announcing the opening.  It means a series of emails over several weeks, along with something you mail, as well as calling them on the phone until you get to speak to your buyer.
  5. Finally do not forget the follow up.   Call after the show to get orders from people who saw the line but didn’t place their paper.  It is also nice to send a thank you note to the ones who did.
Feb 01

5 Things You Should Do Every Week To Grow Your Fashion Business

By Maria Pesin | Sales , Vibe Consulting

Consistent good habits and routines are pure gold in your life.  Like working out 3 times a week or drinking 60 ounces of water a day.  These habits build momentum that over time results in good health.  That is the key word here…momentum.  “Momentum is a leaders best friend. Sometimes it’s the only difference between winning and losing,” John C. Maxwell.

Which brings me to the 5 things you should do every week to grow your business.  Trust me you do these things and they will make a difference in your business.  Some of these are no-brainers.  But, you would be surprised at how many people don’t do them. They say they don’t have time.  They mean to but never get around to it.  If you schedule these into your week and make them a non negotiable than you will see your momentum increase and your business grow.

  1. Meet with your team once a week.  I find Monday mornings the best.  This is where you develop a synergy with your people.  Inform them of everything that is going on.  When your people feel trusted with the good and the bad it makes them feel more invested in the company.  This is a great time to acknowledge individuals successes and also when someone has a challenge everyone can help solve it.
  2. Contact a certain amount of new accounts each week.  Come up with a number that works for you.  It could be 10, 20, 50.  But, you must decide on a number and stick with it.  It could even be the same stores.  But, till you open them or find out there is no way to do business with them keep calling.
  3. When you reach out to new accounts do not just use e-mail.  Reach out with email, phone calls, and mailers.  You can use 2 of each strategy each week.
  4. Call your top accounts each week to discuss how you are performing at their store.  Develop strategies with them to increase sales.  Some examples:  Make sure they have your best sellers, switch out merchandise that is not selling,  maybe offer a trunk show.  This will help you deepen your relationship with your buyers.
  5. Visit at least one store a week.  Preferably an account you either do business with or want to.  Find out how their store conducts business, what can you learn from their sales people and what can they learn from you.  Meeting their customers will give you insight to what products their store may need.  Knowing what sells and what doesn’t sell makes your product better which will grow your fashion business.
Jan 22

Pop Into a Pop-Up Shop

By Maria Pesin | Business , Sales

A pop-up shop is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a store that “pops up” for a short period of time before closing down. In this industry, we know how much consumers like limited time offers because it feels rewarding once they get items that can’t be found everywhere. That’s what has made pop-ups so popular. It gives people the chance to have an exclusive shopping experience.


A pop-up shop can be a cheap strategy for brands. It’s a great way for a brand to make sales without committing to a long retail space lease that would take more money to start up and continue running.


“The trend has become more prevalent in the last year or so,” said Karen Bellantoni, a vice chairwoman of RKF, a retail-focused national brokerage firm.


It’s being done by large luxury brands, like Nike and Prada, as well as specialty shops with a specific niche such as Diet Coke or movies about to premiere. Even Ebay and Amazon have dabbled in the concept in order to bring their online services to a solid building for a unique shopping option.


Pop-up shops can serve a few purposes. They can help you clear out old or excess merchandise while you gear up for a new line. It’s also a way to test out products and see how it works in the key markets and demographics before putting it out officially.


The biggest benefit is exposure. It’s cheap exposure that lets shoppers see your brand, know what you’re about and get excited about your future products.


Pop-up shops can, well, pop up anywhere but they thrive best in big cities like New York, Los Angeles and London, where the shopping scene is all about the “next big thing” and hidden treasures.


How do you start a pop-up shop, you may ask? It’s not much different than getting a regular storefront, except there’s much more freedom in choice. Some pop-ups take the form of tents in parks, vendor carts and booths, or even a store that is immersive and interactive based off of your brand concepts.


And believe it or not, there is so much retail space available for a limited amount of time, even by paying day-to-day.


Promotion is key to every brand, but especially with a pop-up store. If you’re only having the store for one month, you need to get the word out that it’s there and it’s not there to stay. Always emphasize the urgency, the exclusiveness and the one-of-a-kind shopping experience.


Pop-up shops may have started out as a trend, but they aren’t going anywhere. Gain new customers with a limited time experience, and keep those customers long after your shop closes its doors.






Jan 18

10 Myths About The Fashion Industry

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

I have been in the fashion industry more years then I want to admit (I also don’t want to tell you how old I am).  Through the years people have asked me many questions about the business since they hear all kinds of things.  Some crazy things like when a guy from a small town asked me if everyone in New York needs to carry a gun (seriously!?!).  Or minor things like does everyone go out every night.  Well, who has the energy for that.  The following 10 are common misconceptions.

  1. The fashion industry is glamorous.  You should ask me that when I am carrying heavy bags of samples through the city streets to show a buyer (and I was the president of the company).  No, it isn’t glamorous which is what I tell every new assistant I interview.
  2. You can’t get into the business if you don’t know someone.  So not true, especially in my case.  I not only knew no one in the fashion business but pretty much any business.
  3. You have to be very creative to be a fashion designer.  Most designers get ideas through researching stores, magazines, and the runway.  In fact a lot of designers copy other designs and just add some changes
  4. You need to be able to sketch to be a designer.  That may have been true once but now with computers you can get design programs to develop a sketch.
  5. The industry is cut throat.  There is the occasional bad apple.  However, I have had the good fortune of working with some very lovely people who are happy to help each other reach success.  Some of them are friends of mine to this day.
  6. We dress in designer clothes everyday.  Some do, but most can’t afford it.  Some aren’t even stylish at all.  We don’t all look like Rachel Zoe day to day.
  7. We have huge expense accounts and travel all around the world.  Budgets are tight and you will find yourself flying coach to Arkansas more then you might be going to Paris.  And trust me you are working 12 hour days when your in Paris so it’s not a much fun as you may think.
  8. Everyone is skinny.  As one who is definitely not skinny I can personally attest to the falseness of that.
  9. It takes millions of dollars to start a business.  While it is important to have some money to invest, the advent of on line buying has made it possible for people with small budgets to get started.
  10. We spend all day shopping.  Personally I hate shopping so if that was the gig, I’d be out.


Jan 10

Make Over Your Fashion Business in Four Steps

By Maria Pesin | Business , Productivity


In the fashion world, we all love a makeover. Sometimes, our business deserves the same treatment. Making over your business could be an option if the current state of your business doesn’t fit your original “vision.” Maybe you have a new vision that you want to make reality. Or the most obvious reason: you’re not making money. There is always room for change, and there is no time like the present. Making over your business can be a confusing process at first glance, but breaking it down into steps can simplify it to make it attainable.


The first step you need to do is to analyze your business. Find out where you stand and what issues there are. Examine your profitability, production, quality, etc. Dissect every aspect and find the root of your issues.


What are your strengths and weaknesses? A good approach to this step is to try the SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The strengths and weaknesses allow you to look at how you have done in the past and present, while examining the opportunities and threats look towards what the industry could hold in the future. How have industry changes affected your business? Making sure that you roll with the punches of the industry in order to adapt.


The second step is coming up with strategies to help the determined issues. This often involves developing a new business plan. Some options include revamping your sales team with training, remerchandising, rebranding, new marketing strategies, website design or possible partnerships with other businesses. Decide on the strategy that can lead to possible improvement.


The third step is to put the plan into action and execute the strategies you chose. Decide how you can put the plan in motion. Make sure you determine the resources at hand and how you can utilize them to their fullest potential.


The fourth and final step to making over your business is to analyze the results from your strategy change. Consistently monitor the results and tweak as you go along. After a couple months, look at your “before” and “after” to see how your strategy affected your business.


Feedback is key from the beginning of the first step all the way through to the fourth step. Listening to your associates and your buyers is how you can see the holes in your business as well as what is working that doesn’t need to be changed. It can draw your attention to a part of your business that you may not have noticed. It’s also important to look at what your buyers are saying after implementing your “makeover” strategy. Do they notice a difference? Whether it be good or bad, feedback is the best way to see what your buyers want, what they like and what they expect.


Remember, an evolution of your brand is more effective than a revolution.

Dec 19

Snap Your Brand Into Success

By Maria Pesin | Digital Marketing , Sales

Who would imagine that a ten second video is all a potential customer needs to decide to shop your business?


Snapchat has been one of the top social media platforms used worldwide, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon with over 150 million daily users, according to Business Insider.


The basis of Snapchat is simple. You can send a video or picture that can only be viewed for ten seconds or less. Sounds pointless right? Wrong!


When you use your Snapchat as an ad, it can work as a sneak peek into your fashion brand. If a person sees a picture for just a few seconds, it can spark their interest enough to look it up and shop your products.


It’s the perfect teaser. Just by taking a ten-second video, you can make an announcement with a bit of visual that will excite the viewer and keep them curious, and coming back for more.


The power of Snapchat is that it has the ability to give people a quick peek into your business, and what you have planned for the future, without getting bored from lengthy captions for a picture. It combines the to-the-point aspect of Twitter and the visual appeal of Instagram.


People can also “snap” a message or photo back to you to show their excitement, increasing the communication and feedback from shoppers.


Promoting your Snapchat can be as easy as listing it on your website, adding it to your business cards or contributing to the public fashion stories that can be seen by worldwide users. Stories can be viewed for 24 hours, making it a great way to tease an announcement such as an upcoming line or show.


There are so many social media outlets out there, but don’t let them intimidate you. Learn the ins and outs of them and how to use them to your advantage.

Dec 13

The Importance of Staying True To Your Brand

By Maria Pesin | Business , Vibe Consulting

As a consultant in the fashion industry I meet many emerging designers.  The first question I ask when I speak to them is “who is your customer?”  They either tell me they’re unsure or they say everyone.  The problem with those answers is they have trouble developing a brand because they don’t have a unique point of view. Today branding is everything.  “Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. Brands are valuable. Many companies put the value of their brand on their balance sheet,” according to Scott Goodson the founder of StrawberryFrog.

I think at this point we can all agree that branding is important for a fashion company.  But, what happens if a company veers off the track?  They see other brands having successes and they want to try what they are doing. Maybe they had a season that wasn’t that successful so in their panic they move away from what made them have good sales to begin with.

The key is not to ping pong all over the place.  Brands can evolve wth the trends and the knowledge of what is or isn’t selling.  But by staying true to the core DNA of the business you create A more loyal, highly engaged audience.  If you don’t then you confuse your key customer base causing them to buy else where

Look at companies like Gap and J. Crew.  Their biggest problem is that they lost their brand identity driving their loyal customers to shop elsewhere  Companies that innovate and evolve like Eileen Fisher but still stay true to who they are continue to increase market share.  Whereas companies who go through revolutionary change loose customers without gaining new ones to replace them .  The lesson here is to remember to stay true to your brand and true to your visual identIty

Dec 11

Do Companies Really Mean It When They Say They Are Committed to Excellent Service

By Maria Pesin | Business , Sales

I really like the success guru Darren Hardy, author of the Compound Effect.  Or at least I did.  I bought a program of his  that I though seemed really good.  I only listened to the first part of 12 and knew it wasn’t for me.  Since he guarantees his products I filled out his contact form asking for my money back. I had to do it twice because I haven’t heard back.  (Still haven’t) Nor is there a telephone number to call, which is a pet peeve of mine.

This is just one story in a list of similar stories where I feel like I am annoying the customer service rep rather then having a service rep who wants to help. The following is a small list of customer service experiences:

  1. Called Sprint 3 different times to fix a billing issue and was put on hold for up to 100 minutes.
  2. My son was hit by a car and it took 3 weeks to get the police to write up the report.
  3. Trying to get my sons car appraised for weeks and was told we’ll call you when we get to it.
  4. Tried to cancel my gym membership at Retro because I had a knee replacement and can’t work out or walk, yet they won’t cancel unless I walk in and cancel (which of course I cannot.)

I did have one really great experience,  I had to order very expensive food for my elderly cat.  Unfortunately my cat died before the food arrived.  When I called the company Chewy to return the food they told me to keep the food and donate it to whoever I wanted. Wow that was impressive.

This has all happened in the last 2 weeks.  What is going on with companies?  Is business so good that companies can so disregard the brand experience that they alienate customers.  I now love Chewy and would recommend them to everyone.  The rest, not!

What is your experience?  I’d like to hear from you.  Do you have good experiences or has the concept of good customer service gone with the dinosaur?

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