Category Archives for "Fashion"

Mar 09

3 Stockbrokers walk into a bar…

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Once upon a time I was married to a stock broker.

I know it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s true! One thing he would tell me is that when everyone is excited about the market, that is when the NASDAQ is about to go down. Like Warren Buffet says, “the time to buy is when everyone else wants to sell.” When everyone wants in, the smart money starts to take their money out – in order to capture profits.

While I wouldn’t say fashion cycles are exactly the same as the stock market, there are some similarities. When a trend is being bought by everyone and their mother, we know that it’s about to start fading.

Right now we are going to start seeing that with Athleisure. I mean they are putting the word in the dictionary soon for goodness sake.

Athleisure product is everywhere and every major brand from Tory Burch to Calvin Klein is now doing some kind of performance/casual brand.

Of course they all look the same.

One of the biggest fails of our industry is the way we copy things to death without having a unique point of view. Don’t you think wearing yoga pants every day is getting boring?

Aren’t we jonesing for a fabulous skirt with a cool pair of pumps?

Industry site the Robin Report predicts that athleisure “is rolling over for fall and its growth rate will dramatically slow, and then stall out”.

I don’t believe that this trend will ever fully end. The American people love casual dressing so this kind of apparel will leave the realm of trend and become a staple category just like jeans did.

However, I think the next trend is going to be a bit more dressed up.

And I for one am glad.

It will be fun, new, and, fresh. Isn’t that what fashion is about…change?

Feb 28

You Screwed Up. Now What?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

You saw the news everywhere.

While announcing the best picture Oscar award at this past Sunday’s event, there was a mix-up of cards and presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty initially declared the musical, La La Land, the winner.

Ooops!

But just as La La Land’s producers were accepting the award, they were interrupted by Host Kimmel who stated La La Land was not the winner, Moonlight was. As you can imagine chaos and confusion erupted on live TV.

Wow! That is a big error!

Who’s fault was that? And how does the guilty person recover from such a huge mistake? Can you image that person’s rep in the industry? I bet they won’t be stuffing envelopes for a while!

Embarrassing, yes – but not really all that uncommon.

In the fashion industry people screw up all the time, many times publicly.

Remember when Lululemon had to recall their yoga pants because they were too sheer? Or the time Andrew Marc was sued by The Humane Society of the United States after an investigation revealed raccoon dog fur violations? The investigation uncovered evidence that the brand continued to sell raccoon dog fur (a species of dog) despite a court order prohibiting it after March 2013.

Think of one of the biggest business blunders ever! Coca Cola changing their soda formula. Overnight Coca Cola experienced a huge drop in sales.

How do businesses come back from these mistakes? And they all did.

According to Paul Schoemaker, the research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and co-author of the forthcoming Brilliant Mistakes, most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They “make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains,” he explains.

I know in my many years in business there was a time or two where I made cringe worthy mistakes. We all do. Then I dwelt on them for months rather than remembering the successes.

So how do you handle a mistake?

First you own it. Acknowledge it, even if it has to be public. Maybe apologize. Learn from it. Then course correct.

You can’t undo what’s already happened. You can’t miraculously make people forget.

However, by being honest, humble and up front about it, your chances of quickly recovering are good. People are usually forgiving of honest mistakes.

They may laugh at you for a while, but remember: no one ever died from a red face!

Feb 23

Should your Fashion Business Go “Seasonless”?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

My goodness, is spring already here?

Wasn’t it snowing a couple of days ago?

The weather is so strange. It seems winter is later and spring is earlier every year. Climate change is all too real an issue for our industry.

Many years ago I was taking May 30th for Fall deliveries from Saks Fifth Ave. Now no one wants inventory before August. For 6 years I worked in the coat industry. Each year business became more and more difficult as the cold weather took longer and longer to arrive.

One solution is the buy now, wear now model. Creating clothing much closer to need as opposed to showing way in advance of the season. “The current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” stated Tom Ford.

Another solution is to include “seasonless” pieces in your collection.

These are items that feel timeless and can be worn again and again, but are still interesting enough to make the customer want to buy. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wearing the same clothing all year round.

This is a trend that brands need to be on.

Seasonless fashion is on the rise, and we can’t afford to ignore it. And this isn’t just about heavy coats and lighter fabrics. This change breaking some of our hardest kept fashion rules.

Now you can wear white in the winter and cashmere in the spring. Also using lighter weight fabrics that are layered in the fall and then stripped down in the summer. You see women without hose in the winter, and all sorts of weird fabric combinations.

Then there are companies like AYR (https://www.ayr.com) that stands for All Year Round. They were founded in 2014 when the founders saw the need for seasonless clothing. And Catherine Quin (http://www.catherinequin.com) who’s website says the brand was “created as an interchangeable wardrobe reflecting the needs of the modern woman, the Catherine Quin collection transcends occasion, climate and culture with seasonless versatility.”

Is this a strategy for you?

Obviously I can’t be sure. However, I think this is a strategy everyone needs to consider. Almost certainly there should be some element of “seasonless” incorporated into just about every collection.

Feb 13

Ever Feel Discouraged?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged.

Deliveries are delayed, samples come in wrong, stores are late making payment. Believe me, I know that sometimes things happen in my business that are out of my control and I also get discouraged. It’s just human nature.

Running a business is not always smooth sailing and it is often harder than you ever expected. (similar to marriage and raising children, lol).

For entrepreneurs, being discouraged from time to time comes as part of the gig.

Entrepreneurship is filled with peaks and valleys. And from experience, I know the valleys can feel like someone has trounced on your spirit. Someone wearing big heavy military boots.

This can lead to questioning and self-doubt.

So what is the solution? Sometimes you just need to step away. Read a book, see a movie, or go to the gym. But what do you do if that is not an option?

Listen closely, because I have a multi-step sure-fire solution that works for me:

Step 1: determine what the exact problem is…without blowing it out of proportion. For example if a delivery is delayed, rather than thinking I will go out of business, I slow down and state the exact problem. Many times it is not as bad as I thought.

Step 2: make a list of possible solutions. For the delayed delivery I may ask the factory to give me a discount, or send by air rather then boat if they are coming from overseas. There are always viable alternatives if you breathe calmly and look closely.

Step 3: take action. In our hypothetical case of the delayed delivery, I get on the phone and start negotiating. The key step is taking action.

To me the cure for discouragement is activity.

Movement always beats sitting there in the dumps. I totally understand that when you’re in the thick of the problem it can be difficult to see a solution as you get so emotionally involved. You just can’t think straight.

When that happens get your team on board. This is when your business consultant is worth her weight in gold.

Contact them to talk you off the roof and brainstorm solutions.

And remember, a month from now today’s mountain of despair will seem like just a bump in the road!

Feb 07

Is Your Website Stuck in Traffic?

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

Over the last several weeks I’ve spoken with four new clients, and they all seem to have the same nagging ache: converting online traffic into sales. For some reason, this is a recurring theme with many fashion brands out there.

You see, all four had great products – that wasn’t the problem. Their prices were reasonable and they mostly had good images too. So, what’s the story?

The story’s the story – that’s what!

The truth is you have about 8 seconds before the majority of visitors leave your site. And in that short span of time you have to achieve a whole lot. Most importantly you have grab their attention and reel them in by giving them a compelling reason why they should stay on your site.

Does your landing page clearly show visitors who you are and why they should do business with you? Is there a clear call to action? Is it easy to see what their next step should be?

If not, you’re leaving money on the table.

One of the four clients had a very confusing website. I didn’t know where to go or even when I hit a button it didn’t do what the button said it would. That kind of sloppiness causes a really bad impression.

Also, how good is your photography? Are you products shown to their best advantage? Sometimes it is as simple as using a steamer to press your clothes.

Is your traffic the right traffic?

Acquiring the wrong traffic is one of the biggest reasons your website isn’t converting. Make sure you are focusing your marketing on the right demographic for your line. Believe me, it is better to have 1,000 raving fans on your list, than 10,000 lukewarm ones.

Does your website load quickly? Have you ever gone to a website that is incredibly slow to load? Most people just bounce away when that happens.

Do you require too much information to check out? I find it very annoying when I am required to set up an account in order to check out. I want things to be speedy (It seems I am always in a rush).

Make it easy for a customer to seal the deal.

Competition for customers on the internet is high. Make sure your site is as effective as it can be.

After all, you may only get one shot at that potential buyer!

Jan 23

Why Aren’t Stores Treating Curvy Women Right?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Recently one of my followers, Lisa Banks of Lisa Kay Banks Designs read a post I wrote “The demise of the department stores”.

She wrote me and stated’ “I wanted to also add that as a curvy woman going to the department stores to shop is fun but also disappointing. I would love to see more diversity in clothing brands that make apparel specifically for curvy women. I find some departments stores have the “plus size” area, next to maternity wear—REALLY—. I love the idea of the 3-4 way mirror, and to see sales personnel, that have training in styling and fitting, to help the shopper with recommendations while shopping for garments.”

She is so right.

I have a client that is making a foray into the plus size arena. While researching the market I found myself searching department stores in an effort to find the plus size department.

In some stores it was in the basement.

However, what was really disappointing were the assortments. Ill fitting, frumpy, and cheap looking clothing is what I found. Is business so good that stores can ignore or barely register a whole segment of the population?

There are designers who purposely don’t make past a size 12 because they don’t want to see large size women in their clothes. While this may be insulting, it’s their choice.

But then there are the ignorant people such as Chip Wilson, former CEO and founder of Lululemon who once stated, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work [for the yoga pants],” Chip Wilson said on Bloomberg TV’s “Street Smart” program. “It’s more really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

I believe it is time to make fashion that is inclusive of all body types.

So why not think of including extended sizing in your clothes or adding plus sizes to your brand? Did you realize that over 60% of women in the US are plus sized? What’s even more important, they are totally underserved!

Plenty of these women are actively seeking clothes that help them look and feel their best. Plenty of them have the economic means to make significant purchases.

That’s why I recommend opening your vision to this huge segment of the market. You might find a whole new set of raving fans who are hungry to buy your products!

Jan 18

Why Telling Your Story Is Important For Your Fashion Business

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

I was at a trade show one day shopping for product to sell in my shoe and accessory store.  Passing by a booth I saw belts that looked interesting.  The salesperson gave me the information about the belts and I was ready to leave.  Then the owner of the company came over and told me the story of the company and the belts.  The story was so compelling that I sat right down and wrote an order.

Stories have the power to inform and educate, entice and engage a customer. Stories can capture the imagination and influence decisions. When you are marketing and selling, telling your story will create an emotional connection.  This is how you begin to create a brand.

whats_your_story

What are the elements of a good brand story?

Start with the reason your company came to be.  What was the vision behind your product, the inspiration that was the catalyst in creating your business?  I love the story about Spanx.  Sara Blakely founder of Spanx was going to a party one day and had white pants she wanted to wear.  She wanted to make sure she had no lines or bulges.  At the time there were no undergarments that did the trick.  So she bought control top pantyhose and cut the feet off.  After wearing it all night she realized this was something women needed and her company was born.

The next chapter should explain your USP (unique selling proposition). What makes your product fabulous and unique and why a customer should by it.  Remember to discuss benefits as opposed to features.

The story needs to have a hero.  Just as Sara Blakely was the hero of the Spanx story who is the hero of yours.  Is it you?  Then tell the story of you and how you came to the business.

Telling your story with passion, honesty  and excitement will make your story powerful.  Sharing your business story builds a sense of trust and familiarity and people are more likely to buy from those they relate to, understand, and most all, they trust.

Jan 10

6 Tips for making your fashion website mobile friendly.

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

Let’s start with a confession.
I don’t know how people shop on their smart phones.

How can they see anything on those little screens? I have a big screen and I still have trouble. However, my 24 year old daughter shops on her phone all the time as a major source of entertainment.

And obviously so does the rest of the country.

I just read this: “Compared to 2015, total e-commerce holiday sales increased by 10.43%. Meanwhile, purchases on mobile devices, or m-commerce, surpassed 30% in 2016.” According to Chain Store Age.

So what does that mean to us old timers who thought having a great website was good enough?

Well, it’s time to join the new reality and make sure your website is mobile ready. I understand that keeping up with technology is hard since the rate of change is accelerating.

But as we used to say “Be there or be square”.

So here are 6 useful tips that can help you meet the bar:

  1. Make sure your website converts to a smartphone or tablet so that it is easy to see and nothing’s cut off.
  2. Simplify the site so that it is easy to shop. Simplify the navigation and eliminate links that can distract the shopper. At the very least move them further away from the call to action.
  3. Be careful that you don’t strip down your pages so much that you loose your brands personality.
  4. Make the shopping process on mobile a smooth experience. Make it as easy for the shopper to complete the order as as possible on a small screen using the phone’s keyboard.
  5. Provide full product details. Users favor retailers who show all available product information: stock availability, sizes, color choices, descriptions, photos, videos, etc. . Design your site so product detail features are clear and easy to understand.
  6. Customers want to be able to zoom in on details, but they must be able to zoom where they want and control the size. This is especially important considering how small the screen is.

Most important of all – test, test and test some more!

Every day new phones, operating systems and updates go out, and sometimes they break things that used to work perfectly. Be sure to visit your website on your phone regularly, and if you see something that needs fixing, call in the calvary!

In today’s market, where 65% of the traffic is mobile, you just can’t afford to neglect your m-commerce strategy.

 

Jan 10

Amazon Go and the Danger of Turkish Delights

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Sales , Vibe Consulting

My new favorite company is Amazon.

And it’s not necessarily because I buy a lot from them (which I do), but because they are brilliant. They remind me of the quote by Robert Kennedy “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”. Except in Amazon’s case they don’t ask “can it be done?”, but “how fast can it be done?”

They ship so fast that it is amazing. I usually receive my purchases in one to two days. When other companies quote 5-7 days shipping, which is more common, I am un-impressed. Imagine how we’ll feel when their drones start delivering in hours instead of days?

But what does this have to do with us?

Well, they are taking the fashion industry by storm! When long standing companies like The Limited are struggling just to stay in business, Amazon is growing daily. According to Marketplace.org, “The equity research firm Cowen and Company estimates that Amazon’s share of the apparel and accessory market last year was 6.6 percent and will keep climbing.”

Wow!!

But it gets even better.

Did you see their new Amazon Go concept? It’s truly amazing. According to Amazon.com, “Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout.”

I can’t wait till they open a store in my neighborhood.

It goes to show you that no matter how bad business is, someone is successful. And the ones that are successful are the ones that think outside the box and do what it takes to amaze and delight their customers.

Do you remember how the White Witch tricked Edmund in the Chronicles of Narnia? That amazing experience brought him under her spell without a whimper.

So, here’s a thought for you.

What are you doing to amaze and delight your customers?

Hit reply and share with me what you’re doing.

I would love to hear your strategies.

Jan 05

Is Your Sales Team Up to Snuff?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Productivity , Sales , Vibe Consulting

Let me start with a truth that needs to be said:

Sales is a really tough job.

Most people think they aren’t suited for it. They believe you have to have a certain personality, or they think you have to be sneaky and a bit of a liar. It’s a dirty subject that “nice people” avoid at all costs.

What a bunch of BS.

I have been a salesperson almost my whole career. That is 30+ years. And I will tell you the best sales people are hard working, ambitious, and honest people who care about their customers and want to do right by them. The sleazy ones usually are not all that successful. So when you add someone to your sales team, make sure they have the qualities I mentioned.

To be a good salesperson you have to be a self starter. A person who begins work or undertakes a project on his or her own initiative, without needing to be told what to do.

You see, salespeople need to always be selling. That means increasing their business with their present accounts and always opening up new clients. Because there is a lot of paper and detail work it is very easy to be seduced by busy work and not keep your eye on the ball. Time management is an important skill for a salesperson. Especially since sales is such a difficult job.

The #1 way to improve the productivity of your salespeople is to…

  • Train them properly, reinforce the training and observe them with accounts. It takes time and effort but that’s what builds an effective sales team. Great salespeople work in putting great effort over time.
  • Keep them motivated. Let them know what is going on in the company. If you treat them like partners they will go the extra mile.
  • Set specific goals that are challenging and attainable. Then follow up on a regular basis to see how they are doing. Giving them feedback and ideas on how to achieve their goals is an important part of managing your people.

But please remember, there is a difference between micro managing and guiding your staff. It’s a delicate balance that requires conscious effort.

With salespeople you need to be interactive, however you don’t want to be peering over their shoulders every minute. They need to know that you’re there for them without feeling constant pressure.

A good salesperson is worth their weight in gold — and they know it.

So, once you come across someone who really produces, make sure they’re happy and motivated to stick around.

Finally, the ugly truth is that you also need to be ruthless with salespeople who aren’t working out. If you’ve set clear goals and expectations and they clearly aren’t being met, don’t be afraid to part ways. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there, and if it’s not you need to cut costs as soon as possible.