Robert and Phoebe Garland run and own Garland & Garland Fashion, a leading fashion agency based in Sydney. which also offers business mentoring & project management of marketing to the fashion industry. www.garlands.com.au
Fashion is a funny business; you can stock the most beautiful garment in the world and it will sit in your store staring at you for an unnervingly long time, until pangs of doubt start to gnaw… On the other hand, an oh-so-ordinary piece made from questionable fabric and bearing a little-known brand name can become a star seller… sparking more pangs of doubt, along with an unexpected boon for your bottom line, thank you very much!
Which brings me to my husband’s theory, born of working in the industry for over 30 years, that there’s no accounting for customer taste. While we laugh at Kath and Kim (think that amusing episode where they are at the international airport and miss their plane because they are too busy buying Coogi jumpers), the irony is that accepted notions of “good taste” do not always drive sales.
Take that dubious garment, the ‘Snuggie’, a fleecy blanket/poncho with sleeves, which emerged some years ago and which those of us who consider ourselves stylish would rather forget… The Snuggie TV ad was laughed at by everyone and rightfully so. This was, after all, a hideously ugly garment that made you look like a priest and deserved its own standalone category of gruesomeness. However my husband Rob predicted it would be a winner. His words were: “I bet this sells like hotcakes. It’s quite a genius business idea when you think of it; one size, in two colours – no fit problems, one cheap fleece, massive margins.”
Let’s face it, no-one dreams of selling ‘unfashionable’ brands. It’s just not what anyone wants to do when working in fashion, myself included – I am a pathetic brand snob. However, the reality is that some of these so called “unfashionable’ brands can generate the highest volume of sales.
We represent quite a few labels, however ironically our business is still very dependent on the least fashionable one, a leading leisurewear brand in its category. It’s not chic by any stretch of the imagination. It’s leisure wear targeted at the elderly market and its best sellers are elastic waisted pants, simple T-shirts and fleeces. But the volume of sales it does would make high-end designers weep with envy.
We have one retailer who likes to stock the ‘better end brands’ and refuses to put the label on her shop floor due to its look, which clashes somewhat with the slick pieces on display. Instead she sticks a sign in the window advertising the brand, and takes people through the shop out back to view it. Despite the look of the product, she is smart enough to know that she cannot afford not to stock it because it does such strong sales.
The moral of the story? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in fashion terms… Don’t judge a look by your love for it.
When sourcing labels, look beyond just what you personally like. Instead, think about how much your bottom line will like those cringe-worthy yet “commercial” pieces.
Tell us which least fashionable product sells for you and why does it sell so well?