Doing ongoing research is an important part of developing your fashion business. As a designer, you should be out in the market regularly to understand the retail landscape because it’s important to know which products are coming through the doors each season. Plus, the in-store experience is constantly changing with new technologies, layouts and offerings. And, you have to know what your competitors are doing.
Whether it’s a major retailer commonly known as a major or a boutique, you should understand how stores work. You should be aware of how retailers merchandise items, the brands they carry to see who you will “hang with,” another industry term that refers to your competition. It’s also important to know when products go on sale, the price point range for that department or boutique and any other trends that may influence your business.
In addition to understanding the retail space, you should also make it a point to talk to sales associates to understand your customer better. Since they serve as a living, breathing portal for rich qualitative information, it’s worthwhile to get into their world.
Sales associates have experienced all types of situations. They sell the product, field questions, handle returns, deal with customer service problems and even have great wins! They also know what the customer is looking for in terms of fabrication, silhouettes, color, fit and price. What they can also tell you is the emotion behind the purchase because they usually get a glimpse into the psyche of the consumer along with understanding what functional benefits they want in a product.
Whether you play the role as the shopper, designer or just an observer, here are just some of the questions you can ask:
- What’s popular?
- What’s your best seller?
- How does this brand do?
- Why is this so expensive?
- Who has the best fit?
- Do you always have this label?
- What do consumers want in a good dress?
- Which silhouette is the most flattering?
- Does this style sell?
- What’s the most important thing when the make a purchase decision?
You can also tailor your questions to the store, department and your category to get specific learnings for your company. Ultimately, understanding your customer and retailer can influence your business in a good way. You become better versed when trying to sell to retailers, it may spark inspiration for new products and also help with the marketing and merchandising of your line.
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