3 Tips for Making Sales Happen in Your Fashion Business

fashion business slaes plan

Figuring out your sales plan may seem daunting. You may be spending all kinds of time doing extensive research, analyzing numbers, and making really detailed plans. Honestly, when it comes to making sales in your business, the smartest thing you can do it get all the ideas and thoughts in your head down on paper, get organized, and take action!

This month the members of the StartUp FASHION Community were given access to the expertise of Rita and Maria Catapano, the founders of The Catapano Group. These ladies have years of experience in sales, merchandising, and distribution for Macy’s.  They shared so much with our members and below are a few nuggets of wisdom pulled from that conversation.

What I loved about my chat with Rita and Maria was the emphasis on doing. I’ll get more into this later in this post but I was excited to hear them talk about how overly-detailed, lengthy sales plans are essentially a waste of time; there’s a much better and more effective way.

Understand Your Sales and Distribution Options But Don’t Spend Forever Creating a Plan

When it comes to sales and distribution, a common mistake is to feel the need to sit and create an overly detailed and overwhelming plan. Instead, a better use of your time is to take all the craziness in your head – all the “Should I…? How Do I…? What About…?” questions you have and put them on paper. The brand that is laser focused on a basic plan for what they will do to sell, is the brand that will succeed in their business.

Sales channels and distribution channels are different. You can decide on one sales channel with 3 different distribution channels. Or something else entirely.

Her’s a quick breakdown…

Your possible sales channels are:

  • Wholesale
  • Direct to Consumer (D2C)
  • Third Party

Your possible distribution channels are:

Under Wholesale

  • Showrooms
  • Sales Rep/Road Rep
  • Selling yourself
  • You also can decide between boutiques and department stores

Under D2C

  • Your website
  • Trunk shows
  • Pop up shops
  • In-Home shows
  • Markets and Fairs
  • Catalogs

Under Third Party

  • Drop ship on another website

Clearly there are a lot of options and it could feel overwhelming to figure out which ones are right for you. While there is no “right answer” to this question, you can work through the process to come up with what feels right to you. Look at your margins, assess your brand, and come up with how you’ll start. Remember, you can and will adjust your sales and distribution channels as your brand grows and evolves. So spending too much time creating a plan that is overly-detailed and way-too thoroughly researched will just work against making progress.

Review Your Funds and Plan for the Costs Associated with Sales

No sales channels come without costs associated with it. You have to budget for these costs if you want to see real success in your business. Too often designers think of production costs as a given, but assume that sales and marketing costs are negotiable.

Depending on which distribution channels you choose, your costs will vary but here are some of the most common costs associated with sales…

  • Look book and linesheet
  • Web designer and copy writer
  • Facebook ads knowledge and budget
  • SEO
  • Instagram marketing
  • Photographer
  • Graphic designer
  • Email marketing provider

It’s tempting to think that you can just do it all yourself but to get real traction, you have to acknowledge where you lack expertise and hire for it.

Figure Out Your Value Proposition

So often, when we’re trying to sell our work – whether to a retail buyer or a customer—we tend to focus on what we’re selling. We talk about how beautiful it is or how it’s made or why we made it. But what we should really be communicating is why they should care. Buying is emotional, and it’s your job to guide their thought process.

But really, we need to be able to answer this question…

Why should anyone care about what I’m selling?

If you can’t answer that question in a way that is about the buyer/customer and not you/your product, then you have not yet figured out your value proposition.

Here are some examples of customer-focused value…

  • Cubicle to Cocktails
  • Hides the tummy
  • Large smartphone pockets
  • Worn 3 different ways to triple the options in your closet each morning

There are additional value propositions when dealing with retail buyers. As an emerging, nimble brand, finding ways to communicate that into your pitches is incredibly helpful.

Here is an example of an additional value proposition when dealing with buyers…

  • Lean lead times. Buyers struggle with large brands where they often have to place an order 6 to 8 months out. So it makes it harder for them to capitalize on trends. Example: “There’s a trend happening right now, your competitors have product on the shelves right now. I have something in my collection that meets this need. I am manufacturing in the U.S. and can get this to you in 4 to 6 weeks.”

As you can see there’s a lot to think about when coming up with your sales plan (Rita and Maria Catapano shared so much more than what is written above with our Community members) but this will get you thinking.

Just remember, don’t let yourself get lost in it all. The key is to know your value, know your options, and take action!

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

1 Comment
  1. Helen

    Hi Nicole!

    I just recently subscribed to your emails a few days ago & since every single one I have read are amazing. I wrote you a long private email please let me know if you received it! I know I can learn so much from you! Thank you for all of your important information??

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