If you are launching a fashion brand and plan to sell it though high street retailers, you’ll need to follow these six steps, says Jonnie Matthew, one half of the rapidly growing bohemian Spanish leather shoe brand, Solillas, which is designed in London but crafted out of the Balearic Islands. First launched in Urban Outfitters in the UK in 2012, Solillas is now sold nationwide in OFFICE stores, Schuh, Selfridges, House of Fraser and Liberty. Last year Solillas gross sales topped £1 million and since 2014 they have sold over 100,000 pairs. Here’s what you can learn from their retail genius.
Make sure your product is new and 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 with an interesting ‘story’. For example, how did you arrive at the design? What are your manufacturing principles? Where are the items made and using what materials?
For us the story was essential. Solillas sells shoes based on the 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 position in the market
Look for 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.
Always follow relevant regulations
The EU has some of the strictest regulations in the world and the UK is expected to follow similar frameworks post-Brexit.
Consider the manufacturing process, source of the materials, the design, where you want to base your head office and distribution centres; how you’ll pay tax, import duty, and VAT; what to do with the information held on customers; and how to keep any payments secure, website security, cookie information, and so on.
It may sound boring, but slipping up on just one of these compliance issues will send retailers running. They have their own reputation to protect, so won’t be interested in any product that puts that at risk.
Choose retailers which align with your brand
Draw up a priority list of appropriate retailers and go out and gather contact details. Retailers will often publish lists of buyers or you can search on 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 a deal you can work with
If a retailer puts high demands into the deal that you will struggle to service; you’ll constantly find yourself on the back foot and the relationship won’t last long.
Choose a deal you think you can over-service; you’ll keep your retailer happily reordering for years. Never take a deal you’ll have trouble servicing – it’s not worth it in the long-run.
Even if you manage to secure a great deal with a retailer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do your own marketing. 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 – especially if your product is quite unique. If consumers need to be able to see the product and try it on to understand it then in-store placement allows for the hands-on interaction that really helps sales.