Starting and growing a fashion business are two different things. Starting a fashion business as an independent entrepreneur will be different to starting one as a former corporate or commercial fashion business employee. Growing a fashion business depends on many variables, some of which we’re discussing in this article.
Is your fashion business ready for growth?
Starting up and scaling up are different. To know if you’re ready to enter a growth phase, you need to assess your business the way it is right now. There is a wide range of business review models and frameworks available for you to do this, but here are the essential aspects you need to focus on:
- Brand awareness: how well-recognised is your brand among your target audience?
- Marketing: are people looking for your products; is there enough demand for what you offer?
- Sales: is your product available to the people looking for such products? Is it easy enough for your customers to access what you offer?
- Administration: how organised is your fashion business, internally and when dealing with customers, service providers, suppliers and partners?
- Production: can your current production process and layout deliver orders and stock on time?
Growing brand awareness for your fashion business:
Brand awareness is measured and achieved in different ways. Today there are convenient digital tools that you can use to assess something called ‘online sentiment’ - these tools scour social media feeds and publicly available information on the Internet to show you how the active web users may feel about your brand.
You can also use web analytics and other tools like Google Search Console to determine how visible you are to the groups of people searching for both your brand, and for keywords that are relevant to your products. Digital tools work best in today’s world because they make your brand, products and narrative accessible to millions of people without them needing to physically speak with you or see you.
What’s the difference between brand awareness and marketing?
Sometimes brand awareness is considered to be a part of marketing. The biggest difference, though, is that brand awareness activities and campaigns usually don’t have sales-related goals. Marketing is all about feeding your fashion business sales opportunities, but brand awareness is measured differently, like with some of the tools described above.
Fashion business marketing:
Marketing is an extremely broad business function. Today, the most successful fashion businesses integrate their marketing with their product development, sales strategies and even their production and logistics functions. Fashion business marketing can be both traditional, digital or a hybrid mix of both.
Traditional fashion business marketing may involve printed clothing catalogues and newspaper ads, like the inserts that used to come with Sunday morning newspapers. It can be more costly and more difficult to measure effectively, which is why digital advertising continues to grow in appeal. Digital marketing is a combination of artistic and analytical skills, where targets are more clearly defined, and you can attribute the cost of a sale specifically per channel, if you structure it the right way.
If your fashion business offers eCommerce facilities, you can use digital marketing activities to track even more activities in your business. Often, in a country like South Africa where developing communities might form a part of your target audience, a hybrid mix of both traditional and digital marketing works best.
Fashion business sales:
Now that you understand fashion business marketing, sales becomes easier to handle. If your marketing strategy is effective, you’ll create interest in and demand for your products. Sales, then, simply becomes focused on the transaction of meeting customer demand for your products.
To grow your fashion business sales you need to grow your marketing. This doesn’t automatically mean spending a lot of money but it does mean making an effort. It’s during the sales process that you can discover clues to help improve your brand awareness and marketing activities beyond current performance.
If people want your product but can’t find it, there’s only so long they’ll wait before finding a substitute or, even worse, altering their situation so that their needs change and your product no longer has a place in their lives. Fashion is known to be a fast-paced and fickle industry, hence the term ‘fast fashion’. How are you going to keep your customers happy?
Fashion business administration:
Often overlooked, the administration side of a fashion business is in fact its foundation. When you think about growing your fashion business, you need to remember that you’ll be handling more calls and emails, sales orders, transactions, ordering more materials and possibly even needing to grow your staff compliment. All of this can be stressful if you don’t have a growth plan in place.
Growing production capacity in a fashion business:
Without a production plan, you’ve got no fashion business. It doesn’t matter what scale you’re at right now; if you want to grow, you can’t avoid reviewing this function of your fashion business. Any kind of product, whether an accessory or a garment, is produced through a process of transforming and combining input materials; successful fashion businesses also include quality control as a part of the production process.
How to tell if your fashion business is growing:
When you choose an area of growth for your fashion business, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to measure that growth. Here are some metrics we suggest, for measuring growth across your fashion business:
- Brand awareness
- Social media following
- Organic search impressions for your website (visibility)
- Number of unique visitors to your website
- Marketing cost per sale per channel
- Percentage of abandoned eCommerce carts that get recovered through remarketing activities
- Number of enquiries about stock availability and product variations
- Number of sales orders
- Number of products per order
- Number of invoices generated each week or month
- How long it takes to process daily administration (eg. checking emails)
- Number of enquiries you process over all your communication channels
- How much material you process weekly or monthly
- How many units you produce weekly or monthly
- How many production staff are required to fulfill orders in time
While these metrics are only suggestions, and not the entire scope of how you can measure the growth of your fashion business, they can be useful for you in your business journey.
What to look out for while growing your fashion business:
Growing a business comes with a unique set of challenges. You can ruin a good thing by growing too fast or taking on too much operational cost without growing your revenue and customer base enough. You can also stress your team out so much that your product quality drops, and your fashion business loses money on managing returns and processing more administrative work as a result.
This is why we strongly recommend choosing one area of growth at a time, and planning it out properly so that you can measure and adjust for that growth over time. If something goes wrong, you’ll know about it long before it becomes a disaster, and you’ll be able to consult with advisors or adjust your strategy in time. Taking on too much or being too ambitious with your business can create more problems that it solves and this is what you need to avoid.
How can CAFB help you grow your fashion business?
Creative Angels Fashion Benefit offers a range of free and premium fashion business programmes that you can subscribe to, to help you with the process of identifying your best growth area, then developing and implementing a growth plan to your advantage. What we offer has been designed by our team, and draws on professional qualifications and decades of collective experience. Our premium products offer you even more support no matter where you are in the world.
Who can register for CAFB’s fashion business programmes?
If you want to grow your fashion business then you’ll need to have started already. If you’re only just starting out and you want guidance on doing it the right way then we recommend that you choose from our specially designed beginner programmes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fashion graduate, a dressmaker, patternmaker, tailor or an independent entrepreneur; what we want to see is your desire to further your ambitions and grow what you have now, into a more successful fashion business.