Fashion Company’s Success Relies On Serving Big And Small Stores

By | April 2, 2013

Fashion Company’s Success Relies on Serving Big and Small Stores
By Jane Applegate

When I met with Mary Jo Keeble, national sales manager for Fever Clothing, to collect marketing tips for small retailers, I first asked her what we will be buying for the Fall. Since moving back to New York from Vermont, I’m all about looking trendy.

“Pleather, slouchy sweaters, motorcycle or baseball jackets with zippers and multi-media tops,”revealed Keeble, who has been in the fashion world for about 28 years.

Multi-media means a mix of fabric and knits or any combination of textures, including faux fur. Plaids and stripes are on the way back and watch out for wide-legged ‘gaucho-style’ pants. (Ugh. Not my favorite look).

This spring, Fever’s best-seller was a sheer blouse with three-quarter sleeves, a pleated front and a dyed-to-match tank to be worn underneath. Keeble, who was wearing a black knit dress and stiletto heels, said including the matching tank top has been a winning concept because it makes the blouse easy to wear no matter what kind of lingerie you own.

The biggest challenge a manufacturer faces when selling to Costco is that all items have to be “tabled.” That means your item is piled up on a table—never hung nicely on hangers. And, it has to be an item that will appeal to eight out of 10 women, Keeble said. However, she said despite the hassles, manufacturers would be ‘crazy’ not to take an order from a retail giant like Costco. (In fact, next time you are shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club, look for major labels like Izod).

So what tips does Keeble have for small retailers or manufacturers reading this column?
“Know your customer and don’t try to be all things to all people,” she said. Small retailers have to know what will sell because they are paying up front for every item they buy. Mistakes are costly because most manufacturers don’t take unsold items back.
“Ten out of ten items you buy won’t

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all be great, but do your research so you know all about the customers in your town.”

Jane Applegate is the author of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published in all formats by Bloomberg/ Wiley.

Watch Jane’s small business video portraits and find more expert advice at:

Article originally posted on Small Biz Daily.