Being new is fun!
It also sucks.
You are trying to find your own unique way, but sometimes it feels like no one takes you seriously.
Especially independent sales reps. They don’t take your calls or return your messages. You know you have the hottest new thing.
So why won’t they even say hello? There are plenty of good reasons for this.
First off, many new startups go out of business within the first few years. New businesses have a rocky road to travel in the beginning. Production delays or cancellations, fit problems, and quality issues plague new brands. All too often a rep books business for a new brand only to see the business evaporate because of these problems.
It also takes a rep a while to get a new brand up and running and profitable. They spend lots of time and money on the first year or two getting stores to see and buy the line. Usually the orders are small because buyers like to test a line before they put serious money behind it. So the first few years have small volume.
Think about it, maybe they book $150,000 the first year. Sounds good. But with their 12% (average commission rate on apparel) they make $18,000. For the amount of work it takes to make the sale, that is nothing. A line, depending on the rep, has to have volume of at least $500,000 to $1,000,000 in order to cover expenses and have it make money for them.
I know some reps that need at least $2-3 million in sales for it to work.
That’s why many top reps will not take on a line that doesn’t already have business for this reason.
Another reason reps do not like to take on new brands is they know you are inexperienced.
History proves that poor management is the number one reason for failure!
However it is not just failure that worries reps. It is also the mistakes new brands make with their businesses. New brands don’t know the best factories or how to negotiate prices. They have problems with quality control and fit. Or they lack marketing. Many things can slow the growth of a new brand.
Another issue is design direction. Many times a designer comes out with a new collection that is wonderful and the stores like it, then the next season the line looks like it is for a completely different customer. Often, consistency from season to season is something new brands struggle with.
New brands do not have much money.
A common fatal mistake for many failed businesses is having insufficient operating funds. Business owners underestimate how much money is needed and they are forced to close before they even have had a fair chance to succeed. Or they have trouble funding things that are important to reps. Like look books, a good website, and participation in trade shows.
Finding good reps is only part of the equation.
Managing them is more like 80%, and I don’t mean treating them like employees. I mean partnering with them to help them be successful. Micro managing a rep is a recipe for disaster. These are independent business owners. They want you to be on your game. Have good follow through. Keep them abreast of all information. Ship on time and what customers ordered. Have good customer service. Pay them on time. Give them good product information. Supply them with tools to do business. Return their phone calls quickly.
The best relationships are the ones with positive give and take. Great samples are also key. You want to give beautifully made samples. Poor stitching, substitute fabrics, bad hanger appeal are red flags to buyers. Be sure to supply samples on time.
Remember, if there is a question mark about anything, and you are new, then a buyer will usually pass on your line.
Business is just too difficult these days for someone to take a chance on something that has problems out the gate.
So, here’s the moral to the story.
If you want to attract and convince a good sales rep to take on your line, you have to be at the top of your game.
Make their lives easier, and you’ll be half way there.
Maria Pesin knows fashion, especially the business side of the fashion industry. Do you know how Manolo Blahnik got his start in the industry? How he leveraged a paltry 3 grand into one of the world’s most famous luxury brands? While she doesn’t take credit for Manolo’s success, Maria has walked a similar path on numerous occasions. The world of fashion is not silicon valley, and it has nothing to do with Madison Avenue marketing. In this industry there is ALWAYS room for something new and exciting, but you have to have your ducks in a row. If that’s what you need, believe me, Maria is the General Patton of fashion ducks!