So now, what do we do with the concepts and products that have gone through months of development? After looking at the process of Creating and Building an Apparel Line in the first two installments of this three part series, we must now launch the collection! There are many aspects to launching a successful campaign now that the products have been created, manufactured and shipped to the warehouse and distribution center.
From catalogs and trade shows, staff training and sales conferences, to customer presentations and sample kits, we’ll explore some of the tools that are available from suppliers to make the selling process as professional and beneficial to you as possible.
The creative aspect of building an apparel line doesn’t stop at designing the products; we must complete the story by presenting it in a manner that suits the customers and end users. It’s like telling a story through the use of catalog photography, pop-up display imagery and even the setup of a trade show booth. These are the silent salesman; even if no one is present to explain the styles and details, the customer should be able to understand the potential use of the garment and at the same time, the appeal should draw in your interest to inquire further. In addition to showrooms, which act like the retail floor where you can touch and feel the garments, the use of trade shows, catalogs, web campaigns and websites are a few tools that are used to support product launches. Use opportunities to get to know more about your suppliers’ offering, ask about their campaigns, visit their showrooms, and ask about what inspired their catalog shots, as you may get answers that will help your next presentation to your customers or an end user.
A critical part to launching an apparel line is the training of those who would become product experts. Whether you’re calling in with a question to a Customer Service Department, or inquiring more about the products with a Sales Representative, the internal staff needs to be trained in order to show you the perfect option; in essence, they are the experts of the product because of the training they undergo prior to the official launch. This training may include ongoing in-house presentations, product knowledge sessions and sales conferences. The reason this is a critical aspect of launching an apparel line is to offer customers like you the best resources available to help you make the sale. This ties back to our earlier point of telling a consistent merchandising and marketing story; quality suppliers should be able to provide the support and suggest the correct offering, no matter if the opportunity is to outfit the staff of an international company or the local pizzeria.
Last but definitely not least, treat your suppliers like a partner. When your Sales Representative comes in next time to show you new products, ask them what’s new beyond the existing apparel line. For example, are there any marketing tools you can take advantage of, such as customer fliers or custom websites? Are there promotions that would fit perfectly to an opportunity you have that could help increase your profit margins? Furthermore, share some of the thoughts and ideas you have. A good supplier will utilize any feedback you may have to incorporate into their next product launch. There may also be unique strengths each of your suppliers can offer to you, depending on their business model and set up. Some suppliers are strong in their marketing efforts, some may be strong in their inventory positioning, while some may be strong in decoration. Get to know the expertise offered by your supplier, as this will enhance your day-to-day operations, and potentially reduce your stress level!
Apparel collections come to life across many markets and industries, and although the target audience/end use will differ, a supplier’s new line must find the ultimate combination of style, price and value. By applying the expertise of your suppliers into your own programs, your daily operations will prove to be a little less stressful, and perhaps even more successful.