How to Have the Right Product in the Right Location at the Right Time

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SEMINAR: How to Have the Right Product in the Right Location at the Right Time

By Lauren Parker, Contributing Editor

Lisa Metcalfe, Founder and CEO of New York-based fashion industry consulting company Ten

Yards, gave the Accessories Council an info-packed presentation on Reinventing Your

Business. A fashion and retail veteran with over 30 years of experience, Metcalfe has

worked across every fashion business, from companies with pre-revenue to $1B+ annually,

with 2 to 20,000+ employees, and across men’s and women’s lines in ready-to-wear,

handbags, shoes, accessories and swim. She’s managed product development, sourcing,

production, logistics and operations for Calvin Klein, London Fog, Victoria’s Secret, Theory

and Juicy Couture. She was founding partner and COO of Pam & Gela, the innovative brand

from Juicy Couture founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Taylor.

Below is a synopsis of her top tips (plus lots of tough love):

HAVE CLARITY ON YOUR VISION

It sounds simplistic, but you need to know what you want your business to be. Not everyone

wants a billion dollar brand and that’s ok. Maybe you just want to be a million dollar brand, or

half a million. But you need to clarify so you can structure your business accordingly. Know your

brand! What is the 60-second synopsis? I’ve mentored incubator designers, and they all had a

vision but not all had a brand. PR is always great, but PR without a business strategy will

inevitably lead to failure.

KNOW YOUR END GOAL

What are your intentions with your business? Do you want to build it to sell? Grow organically?

Grow and always own your own company? Different business models require different decision

making. It isn’t about right or wrong, but rather setting yourself up for your intended success.

Again, know your business!

ADMIT THAT STARTING A BRAND IS HARD

Somehow, this needs to be repeated. I mentor students and many think that starting a fashion

line is easy. Of course, some have the funds from family to start, which is always a plus, but

they don’t realize how quickly money burns through. They’ll blow through that $100,000 check in

three months putting a collection together. Then what?

LEARN ALL THE DIFFERENT JOBS IN YOUR COMPANY

This is key. I’m not saying you need to be the best at each role, but you need to know how each

job needs to get done. I’ve made mistakes hiring the wrong people because I didn’t fully

understand what those roles required. I only let that happen once. I learned from my mistakes.

KNOW YOUR AGREEMENTS

Know what you are getting into. And how to get out of it. A lot of people don’t read—or don’t

understand—the fine print of a contract, but it’s a crucial part of the business. I know I sound like

a divorce lawyer here, but when you’re entering a new business relationship, think about your

strategy to exit that relationship. You can’t be afraid to have those discussions.

LEARN HOW TO COST

So many of the people I mentor think their margins are great, but people don’t always fully

understand how to set a wholesale price to cover themselves. They need to know A to Z the

costs included in producing an item, and it’s not just materials and labor. It should include

freight, duty, packaging, etc. The wholesale price needs to reflect the “true cost.” Source to that

real margin, even if it is lower, at least you know that this is the real margin and you can work at

sourcing differently if need be. The goal is no surprises.

KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DELIVER

Everyone wants to be in a Nordstrom or Neimans, but you have to ask yourself if you’re ready to

ship them correctly. Do it wrong and it will cost you financially. Are you really prepared to ship to

their expectations, both in volume and specification? They run big organizations that require that

the manufacturer do all of the steps correctly, if you don’t, they will deduct off the invoice.

Understand the requirements and then make the decision is you have the proper

person/function in house. If not, don’t be afraid to outsource to a qualified third-party warehouse.

It’s fine to go after the big retailers, but know what you’re getting into and know how to succeed.

TRACK AND EVALUATE YOUR DIGITAL SPEND

Everyone is investing in digital marketing, but you have to know your goals. Is your digital

marketing spend actually turning into sales and profits? Do you know how to track it? If you

don’t track its effectiveness, you could be throwing money out the window. On the flip side,

maybe you just want exposure—“likes” and shares. You have to know your goals, so if you do

hire a digital marketing firm or employee, you can figure out how to measure the success of that

investment.

KNOW THE BUZZWORDS THAT RESONATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

If you’re selling direct to consumer, evaluate key words that work for you. What buzzwords will

your customers be searching for? If you don’t know, your digital marketing will be less effective.

Companies like Tory Burch or Ralph Lauren are so solid with their messaging. Even the

employees speak the same brand language.

DON’T JUMP INTO EVERY NEW TECH IDEA

Lots of people are developing and selling cool tech platforms for the fashion industry, but your

company doesn’t need to be the guinea pig for every new concept or idea. You need to know

what your customer will understand, need and embrace. I had a client selling high-end luxury

fashion and they were just about to buy an expensive program that enabled women to virtually

try on outfits on the avatar. I said, ‘Your customer is never going to do this! It isn’t on brand!’ It

was a good save.

WHAT IS YOUR GROWTH STRATEGY?

Again, know your company. What is your strategy? Is it Direct to Consumer? Are you

established in Big Box and want more boutiques? Or the other way around? When you’re

growing in wholesale, it’s important to know your retail partners. Yes, you want to get your foot

in the door badly but know that you can push back! Don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms.

DON’T GET TRAPPED IN THE INVENTORY GAME

Beware the game of swaps and returns. You need to buy inventory with a plan in mind in case

you need to get rid of it. What is your plan to move it? Are you launching a website to sell direct

to consumer? Will you be doing trunk shows? Can you rework the design for an upcoming

season? Can you melt it down? Can you send to a jobber? You need to be prepared.

ANALYZE SALES STRATEGICALLY

Look at your business and what’s selling objectively. Just because sales are up doesn’t mean

they’re the right sales. Flat sales are ok if they’re cleaner and more profitable. Everyone in this

room has already sold a lot of merchandise through the first half of 2019, so that’s set. Never

stop evaluating and reviewing expenses and how to improve. It will make your sales that much

more profitable.

BE PROACTIVE ABOUT THE NEW TARIFFS

With new tariffs on certain accessories imported from China, brands that manufacture in that

country are going to see their margins shrink. While the quick and easy answer is to move out of

China, this may be the end goal but you must do it in a prepared manner. We all know it is not

easy to bring on a new factory to meet our product expectations. Have open dialogue with your

factories. See if they can share some of the tariff cost. You will be surprised how many times the

answer is yes. A lot of the bigger factories already have their own “offshore” manufacturing.

Push hard and see if you can relocate your manufacturing there. There will be a large learning

curve with a new factory in a new company, so do a test order if you can afford it. Don’t take for

granted that a new factory will understand you, your product and your expectations. Take the

time to work through communication and educating the factory on your process and what works

for your product.

Courtney Benjamin