VFS Mentoring Event Review - Pricing and Brand Positioning
Designers, have you ever wondered how much to price your pieces at? Ever questioned where best to position yourself within the market and what stockists will be in keeping with your brand identity?
If yes then never fear; help is at hand from our expert VFS mentoring panel:
Jemma Dyes: Fashion Scout at ASOS
The fashion scout for ASOS Marketplace which is a new platform that encourages emerging designers, independent labels, vintage collectors and multi brand boutiques to open their own retail stores. Previously Jemma was the buyer at Browns Focus for 3 years and before that was an assistant at Selfridges on designer wear, she have over 8 years buying experience.
David Watts: Fashion Industry Adviser: East London Small Business Centre
Head of the Fashion Division of this Agency in London. Providing effective one to one business advice to fashion designers and UK fashion brands to help develop a sustainable business plan for sales growth in new markets. Serving as adviser and sounding board I help clients agree and implement a tailored action-plan. Reviewing sales, marketing, brand positioning and the product mix with a view to determining viability for future growth.
Emma Crosby: director of London a la Mode, Buyers Relations Manager of Vauxhall Fashion Scout
With a career spanning 25 years and including roles in Sales Management, Brand Management, Buying and Merchandising, Emma was integral in the launching of Miss Sixty and Fornarina to UK. Emma is currently the director of London a la Mode which acts as a showroom & incubator to a new generation of emerging designers, including Alice Palmer, Ada Zanditon, Lako Bukia, Neurotica, Leopard by Belle Sauvage, Alexia Scarves, Imogen Belfield and Yorkshire Pearl.
Existing relationships include ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Harrods, Pixie Market, Young British Designers, United Arrows, and buying agents for Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus & Bergdorf Goodman.
How do I know where my brand sits within the market?
Like with most things, the best place to start is with research: Visit the e-tailing sites and stores that you want to be stocked in and look at everything… and we mean everything! Look at the style of the garments/ accessories, (are they commercial or avant-garde pieces?) look at the quality (of both the fabrics and the construction of the piece) look at the price (does this store only stock pieces with a high price point or is it quite wide ranging?) Look at the range of brands stocked (are they well established or emerging/unknown designers?) If there is a label that you don’t recognise and therefore may not be that well known/established consider why this particular store decided to take a gamble on buying this unknown label: what makes it so special/unique and what is your special USP (unique selling point) that will spark interest amongst buyers?
Also visit the websites of your peers/ contemporaries or those designers who you would like to be on a par with (but be realistic!) Consider, where are they stocked? How much do their pieces retail at? What is their product offering/range?
Another factor to consider is your CUSTOMER: Whom you decide to target will ultimately effect where in the market you will sit. Write up an extensive customer profile of your targeted woman/man. Factors you should consider include:
-What’s their lifestyle?
-What’s their income?
-What’s their age?
-What are their hobbies?
-What’s their marital status?
-Where do they live?
-What sort of magazines do they read?
The answers to these questions will determine where your customer shops, which will then help you to identify your ideal stockist. (For example, a woman who reads Harpers Bazaar may shop in an entirely different place to a woman who reads Dazed & Confused) Obviously at this stage your answers will just be a rough estimate (as emerging designers you may not already have an existing customer base) so remember to keep it as realistic as possible – have an everyday woman/man in mind NOT Lady Gaga!
Once you’ve considered and answered all of the above points you should begin to build a better understanding of where best to position your brand and you can begin to contact the appropriate buyers/stockists.
I want to approach a stockist/ buyer – how do I go about doing this?
Simply write a nice letter or email. However, don’t just send out a blanket copy to multiple stockists, be personal and mention specifics such as the reason why you love their store/ online boutique and why you want to be involved. (This is another reason why the research in step 1 is essential)
It is also advised to undertake additional research at this stage: Find out as much as you can about this buyer, even something as simple as what’s their name (don’t address your email/ letter as ‘Dear Buyer’; the buyer will find it rude and lazy that you haven’t even bothered to find out her/his name!)
I have managed to secure a meeting/appointment with a buyer – what should I expect?
Make sure you have everything prepared: everything from an organised folder consisting of line sheets, technical drawings and possibly images/ a look-book to a fully finished, neatly hung/ laid out collection of garments/ shoes/ accessories. Have spare copies of your paper work and look book to give/ email to the buyer after the meeting so they have something to refer back to later.
It is also advised that you have someone (an assistant, intern or even a friend) also present at the meeting so that you can relax and concentrate on getting to know the buyer and talking about your brand as apposed to ‘faffing around’ with unwrapping / hanging up items.
What will the buyer be looking for?
A buyers dream collection is one which ‘ticks all the boxes’ so to speak and that has a fantastic balance between ‘creative & unique’ and ‘commercial & wearable’ so it is often a good idea to have a mix of show pieces and everyday pieces within your collection.
She/he may not necessarily look at the collection as a whole as may only be interested in a particular style (for example their boutique may specifically focus on party dresses so won’t be interested in buyer trousers from your collection) Therefore every piece from your collection needs to look strong and make a statement as an individual item but also needs to flow and work together as a collective.
Often a buyer (especially from the large, well established stores) wants to buy into your brand but wants something that no other store will have to offer exclusivity to their customers. Be accommodating to their needs and if possible offer different colour ways, fabric or length options.
The buyer will also do some of her/his own research into you to discover how much press exposure you are getting as this will ultimately effect how many of their customers will be interested in you/ your brand.
The buyer wants to discuss figures!!! How do I know how to price my collection?
All pricing should be compared/ related to what else is on the current market so firstly go back to the research you did in stage one and look at the prices of your peers’/contemporaries’ garments/shoes/accessories. Also look back at your target customer profile – how much do they spend on luxuries/ clothes/ shoes /accessories?
If you want to sit at the high end of the market then there has to be a reason why your pieces are expensive: whether that’s through a perceived value due to the aesthetic of the item or the actual physical quality (of fabrics, decorative embellishments…etc)
However, the most essential thing to remember is that you need to make a profit on your items, other wise you don’t have a business! Here’s how you ensure you do that:
1. Total up all your ‘direct material’ costs: These are all the physical things used to make your garments such as buttons, fabrics, threads, zips…etc
2. Total up all your ‘direct expenses’ costs: These are the everyday things used to run your business such as studio rental, electricity, phone/internet bill… etc The only way to get money back from these out goings is to put a small percentage (around 3-10 % initially) into your final costing.
3. Total up all your ‘direct labour’ costs: manufacturing, machinists, pattern cutters and any other staff. If you’re the only machinist make sure you give your self a wage also!
Add the labour and material costs together (plus the small percentage of direct expense costs) then double it to get your WHOLESALE price. This is the figure you will quote to buyers/ stockists.
Once you have calculated wholesale prices for all items/pieces from your collection you need to compare them against each other to make sure it is balanced. For example, if a dress costs £120, but a skirt costs £100 then a buyer won’t buy the skirt, as their customers won’t!
The final retail price is another factor you need to consider when doing your own costing as it might have an effect on your brand identity/ reputation. If the final retail price is too high for your target market then customers won’t buy (and neither will stockists/buyers!) If this is the case, DON’T just reduce your mark up (you must keep it at a 100% mark up in order to maintain profitable) instead look for ways in which you can reduce your costs in manufacturing (for examples, use a less expensive set of buttons/zips) But also be wary that this doesn’t effect / bring down the over all quality and aesthetic.
So how much will my items retail for?
The wholesale price you quote to the buyers will normally be multiplied by 2.2 - 2.8 by the buyer to determine the final retail price. For example, if your wholesale price was £100 it could retail anywhere from £220- £280 depending on the stockist.
Please note: If selling abroad, buyers mark ups often vary from country to country and an additional mark up/fee may be put on to cover costs of shipping.
The Buyer - Designer Relationship
Establishing a relationship with a buyer is extremely important so make a special effort to really get to know them and their personal taste. Remember if a buyer/ stockist buys your collection it’s because they like you: They are in effect investing in your future career so they want it to be a success just as much as you do. Their advice is key so take it all on board and learn how to take constructive criticism (don’t let your ego get in the way!)
Also be sure to maintain all relationships with your stockists/buyers - don’t just disappear once you have secured a sale, other wise they wont consider you next season. In fact, you should continue to be actively involved in working with the buyer even once the collection has gone in store.
Communication is also crucial: A designer and buyer should constantly be in contact with each other through out the whole process. If any problems arise or changes to the original agreement occur, (for example the end date for manufacture has been pushed back) then don’t run a way from the problem, be honest and notify your buyer.