Love it or hate it (yes fashion snobs I am directing the latter at you), there is no denying that Zara has created a retail revolution since it first graced the UK high street with their presence two decades ago. Well what do you expect really, when the key terms “Fast” and “New” were a part of their mantra? Fast forward to the era of the mobile shopper and we are now generation of demanding consumers accustomed to checking our favourite sites on a daily basis for newness. But in a world where Instagram can dictate the cult items of the season in just a matter of seconds, can your brand really afford to be left behind? Here are 10 simple ways your small start up can free up your open to buy budget and get you closer to executing that speedy turnaround.
1.Work With What You Have
If you already have a warehouse filled to the brim with stock, you’re quite literally sitting on a mini gold mine. Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to finance new line after line without freeing up the assets you already have first.
2. Graciously Accept Defeat
Having said that, accept that dead stock will never make you your desired RRP. It can be soul destroying to have to accept that a line that you slaved over for months isn’t as popular as you had hoped, but business especially in the fashion industry is brutal. If it hasn’t sold, it just isn’t popular and if it isn’t popular nobody will buy it at full price, it is as simple as that.
3. Set Goals And Expectations
Establish what a success or failure is to you business. What expiration date are you setting yourself? What is your sell through deadline? Are you a brand which carries staple transitional hero products or do you have strict seasons? In fine jewellery for example, the turnaround is much slower than it would be for a streetwear brand. You need to be realistic about what works for you and your target demographic.
4. Inventory Accuracy Is Key
Get organised. Stock management is tedious and especially when it is at the manual stage (before you’re able to invest in any advanced software), but it is crucial. Knowing what you have en masse should dictate your short term marketing plans.
5. Nobody Has to Know
Don’t be afraid to apply a strategic sense of urgency to your campaigns and exhaust your options. While Flash Sales can be a quick fix to increase your conversion rate, they don’t always work for generating a stable source of revenue as there is usually a reason dead stock hasn’t sold in the first place. In order to avoid more losses through heightened returns, why not try influencer gifting to revive older styles. Marketing something as “back in stock” often creates a buzz as no consumer wants FOMO. But be logical. Nobody wants to see last year’s coats brought back in the height of bikini season.
6. Recycle And Re-Launch
Customise if you can. Of course this point won’t be relevant to all businesses, but it has worked for some jewellery and apparel brands I have worked with. If you have an abundance of one style, customise it, re-work the design and re-launch (make sure you are counting the pennies and working any new costs into your margins), but make the most of the materials you have.
7. Enough Is Enough
Again, it is crucial to decide when to let things go. If you have a loyal customer base who are frequently checking your site, you don’t want your sale pages to seem dated and unloved. Brand loyalty is a huge factor which can help grow your business so you don’t want to give your savvy client-base any reason to distrust you. Marketing products as high in demand yet leaving them listed on the same static pages for weeks on end will not go unnoticed.
8. Have A Plan B
As I’ve already mentioned, there’s nothing worse than seeing last season’s AW styles brought back for the summer sales. It isn’t a subtle tactic and it wreaks desperation. So have a plan in place to re-allocate and distribute these styles. Set up some Marketplace accounts. I am currently working with a client selling on nine different channels (excluding wholesale accounts) and although it’s a laborious feat for the team, there is no denying that it is generating revenue from stock which would otherwise have to be written off.
9. Leave Your Ego At The Door
Many start up fashion retailers are precious about brand perception. Yes, it is crucial to establish your positioning within the market and retain a clear sense of brand identity. However, it is simply a poor business decision to rule out marketplaces or outlet channels because they don’t sit right with your expectations. Marketplace sites and pre-loved apps are here to stay and will undoubtedly increase your revenue, somewhat instantaneously. Meanwhile, re-allocating to wholesale outlet channels will allow you to freedom to offload stock in one drop and give you the benefit of a set payment.
10. Learn From Your Mistakes
Pay close attention to your figures. Keep a close eye on your sell-through rates, your reasons for returns and listen to your customer feedback. Were there any quality issues with the styles, is this why they were slow movers? Was there an issue with the sizing? Do you need to look at sourcing a new supplier? It can be easy to get carried away with planning the next launch, but make sure that your analysis is applied to your newest designs and processes to avoid repeating the same mistakes.