[I wrote this article for the “Apparel Mag”, November 2010 edition]
Yes the Global Financial Crisis officially kicked off over 2 years ago… Many companies reacted quickly, many did not. Lots of us had not ever dealt with a recession, let alone the worst one in 80 years. If you are still in business today, then pat yourself on the back. Where is your head now? Are you doom and gloom still or are you going to wake up and smell the roses?
Yes consumers are tighter than they have been in living memory. We all see the news reports. Whilst money is obviously still in shorter supply there are “dollars” out there in the collective NZ economy and in the shopping environment. NZ has come out of the GFC in pretty good shape according to world-renowned economists. So yahoo for that! Count our lucky stars we are in NZ and not some other countries that really were so much more decimated. So now the exciting bit…
NZ and the world is still full of opportunities. In apparel most of us operate only in NZ. If you operate overseas you will experience many mixed feelings of the economies you operate in. I think the biggest opportunity today in the apparel marketplace is to think “local”. Break things down into smaller amounts, smaller step aims. Think about each and every customer that you have… Whether you are a manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer or some unknown part of the apparel industry in NZ, are you giving the best customer service that you can? Most of you will say “probably not”.
Think market-share. Whether you have a factory in Mosgiel, a wholesale business in Hamilton or a shop in Newmarket, you have current customers who can totally buy more from you plus you have a veritable feast of potential customers who are not buying from you at the moment. Most businesses just need to think harder and smarter on what do my customers really want from my product? Yes in fashion you have to make the odd “out there” garment that is purely a media piece. I do think though that some designers and retailers make the most un-believable garments from the wrong end (and thus find it tough going). I receive many emails daily and weekly which I look forward to and my friends and I often say “what were they thinking”. Of course there is the other angle when you think “oh my goodness that is just awesome!”.
When you communicate with your database (of course you do), you need to look at it from a customer’s perspective. You should only communicate when you have something to talk about. Hopefully that is weekly but only if you have new garments or some good deal to talk about or some other interesting news. It is interesting that some emails do not match the brand also, most do but some really stand out as not looking like the brand perception. I am also still surprised at how infrequently some fashion retailers communicate. Plus some still use old communications means that cost a lot of money. One massive fashion retailer still mails out, what seems like monthly and seem to infrequently send emails. No wonder their share price is dropping.
Be different… Check out www.shoesofprey.com.au. These guys have taken customer choice to a 22nd century level of choice, where you literally design your own pair of shoes. The chance of someone else wearing the same pair of shoes as you has dropped to about 0.01%! Now this would not be cheap but the OPSM store in Melbourne is a veritable “eye hub” and you can choose 4 glasses that you like and they have a “TV screen” that will show you and compare how the 4 glasses look on your face! Glen’s Tee’s are a great example of a company getting customer feedback on their designs, pre-production… So they only make (in theory) guaranteed winners!
Private labels go so well in our supermarkets these days… They are growing all the time in fashion also… A tricky question is how much to push it given the potential cannibalistic impact on your “main brand” but definitely food for thought.
I wonder if “green” apparel and retailing will start to come back more in vogue now? It was often one of the first things to go during the harder times. I still think regardless if you can do “a bit green” (at least) for a reasonable price, that you will do better as it has a nice story to it.
Throw in the “must-haves” that I specialise in everyday with my clients like : knowing what is happening in your business (so many do not) which is effectively the most important facet of successful businesses, having a motivated team with great accountabilities and KPIs backed up by good remuneration systems, having a plan that is alive (no gathering dust allowed), continually thinking of ways to grow your brand perception, a great website (that sells!), and respecting cash (and stock management!), you will be heading in the right direction to having a great 2011… Contact me if I can help in anyway with business coaching, business advice or business planning and check out my new website at www.businesschanging.com
Zac de Silva