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Fashion Business – Developing A Winning Strategy In Fashion Business

Fashion Business

Gucci, Chanel, Timberland, Zara, Gap, and Ralph Lauren all sell fashion. The fashion business in Nigeria, like the music and Nollywood industries, has become a big money earner. Fashion at its basics is a fundamental need of man, in the same sphere as food and shelter.

Fashion has come a long way from its roots of meeting the basic clothing need of man. It has become an expression of man himself and a statement to determine how this same man is perceived and addressed by others.

Fashion business in Nigeria was not always this professional. It was a trade artisans learned and eked out a living with. Like all industries where imagination or mental capital is applied, fashion took on much more meaning than just putting materials together to make clothes to simply cover up nakedness.

This coincided with the unmet needs of a customer base that wanted more than just clothes. They wanted guarantees of uniqueness, durability, quality and undisputed style. This gave birth to the likes of Vivid Imagination and Sophisticat and more recently the likes of Mon Ami and Kese Jabari, before the millennial generation took over the scenes.

Factors that played key roles in the influx of players to the fashion business as we have it today include an increasing need among young people to follow their dreams, not being bugged down by traditional careers and taking advantage of their unique gifting. Others are limited job options, post-secondary and tertiary education (fancy speak for rising unemployment) and less influence of parents over career paths.

To win at any game, one must take three things into consideration: one’s capacity or lack of it, the competition’s capacity or lack of it and the dynamics of the playing field.

Developing a winning strategy in the fashion business starts with how you are currently positioned and how you want to be positioned in the industry.

Technical/Creative Strategy

Tier 1

Let us call this group the artisans or the processors. They turn the raw inputs into finished products or sell the raw materials. These are the fabric and leather sellers and the men and women with the technical skills capable of creating masterpieces. The entire fashion industry relies on this group to do what they need to do. Excellence and quality of work stands one out uniquely in this space.

Tier 2

Let us call this group fashionpreneurs. These set of people many times don’t have the technical skills required to create finished products. What they lack in technical skills, they make up in other skills that include selling, organisation, marketing and networking.

This group is more likely to have a brand name than the tier 1 players. Many are fashion forward people who decided to turn their interest in fashion to a business. Many either employ the tier 1 group or outsource work to them.

Tier 3

Let us call this group the runway specialists. These are the crème de la crème of the fashion industry. Their brands are the most popular and most coveted. They carry limited stock of each design and their clothes are worn usually by celebrities and make frequent appearances on red carpets the world over.

I write this article more for people who produce what they sell either locally or from another country under their own brand name. Now that you understand what tier you are playing in, let us look at winning strategies for the different phases of your fashion business.

Production Strategy

Regardless of the fashion sub sect where you play, you either are producing bespoke (made to measure or specification) or ready to wear. Some do a bit of both but you will realise you do one more than the other. The one you do more of is your dominant production strategy.

From a cost point of view, bespoke is cheaper as you only produce when there is a guaranteed sale. Ready to wear means inventory and inventory costs money and space. From an operations view point, bespoke is more cumbersome and is less effective. You repeat your production process every time you have an order. With ready to wear, you can forecast demand and create effectiveness with your production process.

Quality Strategy

Regardless of your brand positioning, you must aim to have the best quality within the range of competitors you have. Quality is expected regardless of how much was paid for an item. When your product quality is called into question, every other strategy falls apart. Customers are unforgiving of bad quality even if the item came free. Quality is neither high nor low; it is simply the product doing exactly what was promised by the manufacturer.

Pricing Strategy

You can compete as low priced, average priced or premium. There is a large market for every pricing strategy you choose to adopt. Premium doesn’t directly translate to more money. Simply understanding your pricing components is key to making good margins.

Selling Strategy

How you sell your products is as important as the product itself. Most people start out in the fashion business selling to family and friends. This is okay, but one must have a more sustainable selling plan beyond this group as you would eventually run out of family and friends to sell to.

Selling Channels For Any Fashion Business:

1 Owned Platforms

Used more by well-established and premium brands, all your products are sold out of your retail outlets and or website. This approach is capital intensive and cuts you off from the bulk of buyers, but then you aren’t looking to sell to that market. Your customers want value and are ready to pay for exclusivity.

2 Online Platforms

This includes selling via your social media platforms and online retailers like Jumia and Konga. There are loads of fashion businesses who sell in the millions simply from an Instagram handle.

3 Fashion Magazines

You could take out feature adverts in fashion magazines which are getting increasingly popular. The bulk of the buyers of these magazines are tailors and other fashionprenuers and through them, your designs become proliferated

4 Third Party Retailers

You could give your products to people who have physical stores. A number of stores with high traffic and visibility accept products for display and sales. This gives you less control over your pricing and also means a high cost of inventory. But if the store is worth its salt, the increased sales would compensate for these challenges

To win in the fashion business, your destination is more important than your current situation. It is as important to be deliberate about what you won’t do as much as it is what you would do. Avoid making short term cash gain sacrifices to the longer term detriment of your brand. Picking and understudying an international brand you would like to model your brand after would give you further insight into playing to win in the fashion business.

How to start and run a successful distribution business is worth reading.


Photo Credit: Iamthreadlocks




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