Fashion consultant tops tips on setting up your brand to succeed in global wholesale.

Over the last 10 years, I would say these are my favourite and most important changes you need to learn now before launching into wholesale.

Tip 1. Business wide communication.

Growing your business is a massive step, and starting in wholesale is not a small task. This will affect the whole of your business and the majority of team members. The aim of sharing this project with everyone is to get them on board. You need their support and individual skills to make this a success. You need to talk about the change to each team or individual job spec, daily tasks positively. You need to encourage them to support this change and that this is exposing them to further skills and development. You need your team’s support and positivity.

Why is this so important? Some brands have existed for years, and the business operates like clockwork. Disrupting these changes isn’t normally welcomed with open arms! I have seen brands not communicate change, and therefore changes have surprised the business and most teams and individuals have not liked this added workload or simply change.

Tip 2. Build a plan and stick to it.

This might seem obvious, but trust me as a fashion consultant that the ‘sticking’ to it part is the most important. Why? If not you will waste time and money.

The most successful brands have sat down as a leadership team, and really discussed the reason for wanting to grow via wholesale (purpose) and the goal of doing this. The main decisions you need to make as a team is:

  • What territory, country, market, do you want to launch in?
  • When?
  • With what product?
  • At what price?
  • With what infrastructure? team members over 2 years

I would encourage a brand to launch within 1 territory first, let’s say UK/EU, therefore focusing efforts in one location. By doing this you are focusing the energy of your team on researching and learning one territory only, as this will still break down into individual markets. This becomes a more manageable workload. By doing this, focusing on one location first, this will help build business strategies like; PR exposure in a new market, logistics – how can you get your stock there, power of order units in one geographic location, to aid negotiation. Etc

Tip 3. Make brand decisions.

This is really important as a team to make these key brand decisions before you launch into wholesale.

  • Will you adapt the range to suit each new customer? This surprisingly happens a lot. Your customer will be different from theirs. Theirs might be younger, more basic, price-conscious, therefore you may need to offer 70% off the collection meeting this criteria. Are you willing to?
  • Following on from the above point – How do you want to be perceived in the new territory? Same branding, collection, tone of voice. How much control will you keep?
  • Will you offer customer exclusives? Range extensions, a new category or product extensions, a new print?

Through consulting numerous brands, I have seen both approaches and both can work. I would encourage that if you want to grow and grow via a wide assortment of platforms/channels then be open to adapting your brand. For example, create the European look and feel of your brand. However, you want to remain targeted, then focus on only those platforms that match exactly back to your brand. Choosing this option, you are limiting your growth potential.

A further tip for this tip! If as a brand you make the decision to be open to evolving your range, this must be communicated to the business and you will really need their understanding and support. Why? By opening your brand up to 3rd party adaptation, you are taking away from a buyer and a designers job, free creativity in building each range within their needs and vision. By implementing this change you are reducing this freedom, and asking the buyer, design to add someone else’s choice, which they may not like. Therefore this must be talked about in an exciting manner, encouraging your team to welcome global suggestions.

Tip 4. Invest in resources.

Starting with 1 resource, trust me that will quickly move to 3, 5, 10 dedicated resources within the first 1-1.5 year (brand size-dependent!). I would strongly encourage from the offset to hire a specific team as the sole resource for setting up, launching and growing wholesale for your business. If you don’t do this and you push a new task onto existing team members, you must reduce, take away a task they were already doing. Wholesale as an operation is extremely manual and takes a lot of time. Ensure your resources have adequate time to work on wholesale for your business.

Wholesale requires input from all divisions of your business – design, buying, admin, finance, production, press. If you are going to hire a new resource, then ensure they are an all-rounder and set time aside with each division to train them on the company’s ways of working in that department.

Pro’s from having a dedicated resource; it is their job to do, it is focused and has ownership. When you ask someone in a current role to take on an extra task, this risks the task being rushed and done with less passion and dedication in comparison to their main role

"I would encourage a brand to launch within 1 territory first, let’s say UK/EU, therefore focusing efforts in one location. By doing this you are focusing the energy of your team on researching and learning one territory only, as this will still break down into individual markets."


Tip 5. Ensure you can financially support wholesale growth.

Launching your brand into global wholesale takes time and money. You need to ensure your brand can financially support this.

It all depends on the approach you take – face to face appointments or online B2B. Costs being travel or a new platform. Resource costs – hiring and on-boarding a full-time position or working with a fashion consultant on contract basis. These costs need to be spent, in order to successfully launch in wholesale. I have seen far greater success when a brand invests in a fashion consultant that travels overseas and conducts the appointments face to face. The order value from face to face meetings is always greater than video. You are paying for the salesman.

A further point to make as to why you need to be able to financially support wholesale, most platforms payment terms are 90 – 120 days after delivery/handover of the goods. Therefore you need to be able to pay all the costs before you get paid.

Tip 6. Take feedback onboard. You are not an expert in every market!

Launching your brand into wholesale means you will meet new customers directly from within each platform but also within the market, the end-use customer. These customers’ needs will be very different from your current customer and team.

Working in wholesale, you have a fantastic opportunity to receive feedback from experts in that market – from the fashion buyers at the platform. When you receive feedback, I highly recommend that you take this on board and action it. They know their market, they know their customer, you know yours. They are the experts, so listen.

I have seen brands that listen, take it on-board and action a request immediately, which results in orders and a strong working relationship. By actioning requests from the feedback you are showing willingness and flexibility, which in today’s climate is more important than ever.

Tip 7. Add a buffer.

Never sell a wholesale product without a buffer. You are setting yourself up to fail.

Changing factors could be cost price increase, production delays, vessel delays, the exchange rate crashes in your market. With this in mind before finalising the collection to be sold, you need to add a buffer to:

  • Collection delivery date. This could be:
    • The time between when production should finish and when you hand over the good (FOB).
    • The time between when production should finish and when you land the goods at the platforms warehouse (DDP).
  • Recommended retail price (RRP). Analyse the market, check what your competitors are doing. Price according to competition, but also bear in mind the cost of operation, duties, taxes of the new market you are shipping to (DDP).
  • Assume a higher cost price for the goods. When costing, always request 3 costs for low, mid and high unit orders. Always work off the highest cost, i.e. the lowest unit order.
  • Total wholesale lead time – plot out the time each task will need and apply enough buffer. I.e. design, sampling, sign off, collection showing, orders returned, confirming orders, production starts, etc. and then apply a buffer to the calculated weeks.

Tip 8. Incentivise your team.

Before launching wholesale within your business, define each team, each individual’s KPIs around wholesale. I have seen this to be a really effective method to focus the business on delivering a really important project. By defining KPIs from the offset you are focusing each resource on the task in hand.

Finally, share your tips?

Have you successfully launched into wholesale? I would love to hear your story, especially about what went well and what you could have done differently?

After reading this article, are you now inspired to work in wholesale? If so, which tips are you going to follow?
Please post your comments below and thank you for reading this post.

Comments (2)

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Thank you so much, this means a lot to Unzipped! I have a huge smile on my face reading this. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

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