Ever dreamed of having your fashion line stocked on the high street?
For us it was an essential goal of the Solillas business and really catapulted our brand. So, here, based on our experiences, is how you can get retailers interested in your fashion brand:
Make it unique
High street shops are saturated with great products, with new brands popping up all the time. To cut through this competitive environment, your product needs to be high quality, fairly unique and supported by a strong brand. Retailers need to protect their own brand, so items of a substandard quality are likely to be rejected immediately, and without something unique, you aren’t offering anything new.
Create a story around your product
One way to convey the quality and uniqueness of your product is to tell its story. How did you arrive at the design? What are your manufacturing principles? Where are the items made and using what materials?
For example, Solillas ostensibly sell shoes. But that is a hugely over saturated market. However, no one was selling shoes based on traditional Spanish design, using high quality leather produced in Menorca. That was our unique twist and made for a good story. It really helped retailers understand both the unique design and the attention we pay to quality.
Find a clear niche in the market
Even in a fairly closed market like footwear, there are still sub-markets that you can align with. Our footwear, for example, shared similarities with other traditional-inspired footwear like Birkenstocks. By looking into this specific market, we could position ourselves alongside a brand that was already established for selling something quite unique, and retailers could immediately understand the key points of difference.
Follow the regulations
Finding your position in the market can also help you get to grips with any regulations that you need to comply with. The EU has some of the strictest regulations in the world, so it can be useful to start there, and the UK is expected to follow similar frameworks post-Brexit.
When it came to our manufacturing process, for example, we needed to consider the source of our leather, the tanning methods and materials used, the design and support needed in the sole. With sales, we needed to consider where we wanted to base our head office and our distribution centres; how we paid tax, import duty, and VAT; what to do with the information held on customers; and how we kept any payments secure. Then we had to consider our website, its security, cookie information, and so on.
It may sound boring, and to be honest it can be, but slipping up on just one of these compliance issues will expose your inexperience and see retailers recoiling rather quickly. They have their own reputation to protect, so won’t be interested in any product that puts that at risk.
Limit your retailers
First off, you’ll want to limit the retailers you contact to those which align with your brand. If you’re selling something high-quality and handmade, for example, then you won’t want to be associated with a budget retailer and they probably won’t want to stock your product.
The best way we found to go about this process was to make a priority list of retailers based on how closely they aligned with our brand. Urban Outfitters was a great match as the products they stock are trendy, premium, and high quality.
Once you’ve created your priority list, go out and gather contact details. Retailers will often publish lists of buyers to contact with new products or you can always search for their contact details on their website or LinkedIn. Find out what they need from you to move on to the next step. It will usually involve a sample and some marketing materials, followed by a face-to-face meeting. But every retailer is different.
Choose the right deal for you
It’s also important to choose retailers that you can continue to make happy within the deal agreed. If a retailer puts high demands into the deal that you will struggle to service, then you’ll constantly find yourself on the back foot and the relationship probably won’t last long.
If, however, you can get a deal which you think you can easily over-service, then you’ll keep your retailer happily reordering for years to come and have a fruitful relationship. Never take a deal you’ll have trouble servicing just because you like the retailer – it’s probably not worth it in the long-run.
Never stop marketing
Even if you manage to secure a great deal with a retailer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do your own marketing. Some retailers may impose restrictions around marketing so that it doesn’t interfere or cannibalise their own marketing efforts. But demonstrating that you are working to spread the word, tell the story of your product, and create your own sales is likely to improve your retailer relationship.
For many fashion brands, high street retailers are the perfect way to go. Our footwear is pretty unique, and while that helps make a point of difference in-store, online customers are less sure about what they are getting. They need to be able to see the product, pick it up, and try it on in order to really understand it. In-store placement allows for the hands-on interaction that really sells our footwear. And once we had our foot(wear) in one door, others keep opening for us!
About the author: Jonnie Matthew is Founder of Solillas known for its bohemian update on a traditional Spanish leather sandal, crafted in the Balearic Islands.
Designed out of their studios in London, every pair is still lovingly handmade using second generation family factories in Spain, using traditional techniques and classic stitch-down construction.