Product range strategy – building a collection
Building a collection requires a fine balancing act between designing products that incorporate your values as a company and brand, and actually producing garments that sell. The trick here is to fully know who your target customer is, what specific market you want to position yourself in, what your “muse” wants from you and what “she/he” is ready to pay for it. Before you start, your goal should be to nail both the commercial and creative aspects.
What kind of brand are you? What will you offer and why? What are your values?
Figure this out first, before applying the principles below.
What are you going to sell?
When you first wanted to start your sportswear brand you had a vision. Either it was a specific product (Item-brand) or a certain product concept, that includes a set of products (collection-brand). In the start up phase it’s good to clarify this both for yourself, for your buyers, and end customers.
If your focus is on one specific product, imagine how this will be placed in a shop or how this will be exposed on your website/webshop. The same item can be produced in different colors and materials to diversify your offer to your customers.
- Do you have enough basic vs “trendy” colors?
- Will you offer different fits?
- Will your product be offered in different materials depending on season?
The benefits of starting with one item are the minimum quantities and the fairly low cash requirement you have to pay in the startup of your business. You will only need one type of manufacturer, it will be easier to communicate and easier to get it right from the beginning.
If you choose to go big from the start with a full collection, then here are some things you need to consider:
- Do you have a good diversity of colors?
- Do you have a signature product in the collection?
- Can you build outfits with the items you have?
- Do you have a clear pricing strategy for all items?
- Do you have good diversity in materials?
- Do the styles cannibalize on each other? Are they too similar and therefore take away sales from one another?
- Can you ACTUALLY manufacture all the items in the collection and can you afford it?
Remember you have to pay suppliers and manufacturers about 6 months in advance. What you present to buyers, you have to manufacture and deliver!
Start with a small collection. When you are a sportswear startup and have limited resources this will be your way of getting solid ground for your brand. Introduce a really unique product, build your brand around that and expand from there. Many of today’s big brands started small. They focused on a specific item when they launched their brand and diversified from there. They had already built a community and fanbase that wanted their products. Having a niche will be your strength.
Approaching the buyers
When buyers are introduced to new products/brands the questions that pop up in their heads are:
- What is unique with this product that I don’t already have in my shop and that I can offer my customers?
- How can I complement my offer with this new product/brand?
Download The Product Price Matrix
Keep track of your material, styles, and price latter.
Create a price structure
The concept is clear, the design is done, now you need to give the thing a price. How do you go about to price a product? What pillars should be included in the strategy? Here are a couple of points to consider in the equation:
- What type of brand are you? luxury, high end, mid range, affordable or entry price?
- What prices does your direct competitors offer in similar products? Do a thorough research to know how and why to differentiate yourself.
- What materials and quality will your products have?
- Where will your products be manufactured?
- What profit margins do you need to have?
- How much money are you going to make?
Who decides this? Are there any rules? Does the market dictate the pricing? Nope not really, it all depends on the strategy you want to have. Read more in our article Sportswear Pricing Strategies.
Cheaper products can potentially sell more than expensive ones. But if you have certain brand values, by selling cheap products you can devalue the brand. Once you have decided and set your strategy, make sure you stick to it! The trick is to price your garments in a way that the buyers/customers experience that the product is worth its price. Stay on top of the figures. Learn excel and get yourself comfortable with numbers. Price your products for profit from the start!
When it comes to merchandising most people think it’s about the visual presentation in a store. True, but it also consists of the analytical aspect of your collection in the stores, your pricing strategy, margins and product offer. Your collection should consist of a selection of products that work together as a group, with a cohesive story, not just random pieces. There should be a variety of silhouettes, colors, materials and fits.
E.g. your tops and bottoms need to tell the same story and have a logical top/bottoms ratio. If you have a jacket assortment, do you have a thin jacket for late summer, a thicker one for fall and a really warm one for winter? When do you have the different product drops/deliveries/ season? Think and visualise how your product or collection is going to sit in your target shop.
- How will they exhibit your products?
- Will the colors merchandise well together and represent your brand the best way?
- Will it look interesting when it hangs on the wall?
- Do you have popping colors for visual interest?
- How will the customers eye be dragged to you products?
- When the customer finally finds your garments will they like the materials, prices and overall quality?
Puh… theres a lot of stuff to think about and all the aspects are equally important. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer. Preferably you should have visited the shop before, to know exactly who their customer is and what other brands the shop carries.
After a season or two in a shop you will be able to analyze the sell through (what actually sold in the shop at full retail price). What sold and why? With this information you can design a better collection and actually give your customers a better range of products.
- Get really clear on how you want to position yourself in the market.
- Get really clear on who your customer is: end consumer and shops/retailers
- Listen to your customers. If a product works, ask why it works, if a product doesn’t sell, figure out why and make changes according to that.
- Count exactly how much money you will need to produce all your intended garments plus expenses incl. salary to yourself, rent for your studio if you have one, trips to factories etc.
- Use few material across many styles to cover minimum fabric quantitates and to have the collection look cohesive. This will also make your production process easier and cheaper.
- Do one thing well, you can’t be everything to everybody.
- As I mentioned earlier, there are no set rules for how to structure and price a clothing range. You will have to test your way through, tweak it season after season till you nail it. With the tips from above you can increase your chances to a successful product range.