When we explore online platforms and marketplaces nowadays, we will see several homegrown brands emerging in the market. Thus, what was once a scarce industry is now blossoming into a viable business. Southeast Asian brands such as Love, Bonito and Pomelo are a few of the emerging fashion labels that started locally and have now successfully grown their customer base outside of the region.
Despite the tinge of excitement of starting a new business entirely from scratch and watching it grow, creating a new venture could be confusing and even scary, especially if you lack experience in the industry.
Launching a new clothing brand requires more than beautiful designs to create a lasting business. It takes all factors of a successful business too. Brand owners need to master marketing, manufacturing, and retail, among other things. In this article, you will learn the steps of how to launch your new start-up clothing brand by incorporating the strategies below in your overall business planning.
Conducting Market Analysis
Conducting market analysis should be a fundamental part of starting your business. However, not all brand owners do it, due to the excitement to jump right into producing the collection. Doing market analysis early on in your journey will allow you to look at the bigger picture and discover what your target customers truly want and love.
With a market in mind, here are some points for you to research when you do a market analysis:
- Validate a market’s growth or decline
- Define your competitors
- Determine your target audience
- Identify a niche
Performing a SWOT analysis helps as it maps out the internal strengths and weaknesses of your new brand, as well as external opportunities and threats.
Launching a new clothing brand needs more than beautiful designs to create a lasting business
Choosing Your Business Model
After finalising your research and studying the market, the next step is to determine a suitable business model for you. Yes, this comes before you even decide your brand’s name!
Understanding the different business models gives you a clear framework for your next steps.
There are plenty more business models for a clothing brand, but the main types of popular business models in fashion are:
- Private Label
Each business model will have its pluses and minuses; you can learn more about these types here. Consider your resources like capital, workforce, and any other thing that you need to factor in before you make the decision.
When you have a great product, people buy it, but when you have a great message, people embody it.
Creating Your Brand Identity
Choosing your brand identity is significant in setting you apart from the competition. But brand identity is more than just a name. It is your DNA where your brand’s message is anchored. When you have a great product, people buy it; but when you have a great message, people embody it. Here are a few key steps to get you started:
1. Target Audience
Because you want to attract a broad market, you say, “My target audience is everyone!”. Fashion covers a wide spectrum. It’s personal, individualistic and subjective. So naturally, not everyone will fit into your target audience.
You can start as simple as “women in their early 20s”, but after that, be more specific. First, break down their behaviours, their lifestyle and their daily activities. Then, use these questions to help:
- Are they trendsetters or fashion followers?
- Who do they follow on social media and on what platform?
- What are their interests?
- Where do they hang out?
- Why do they need your product?
As fashion moves quickly, understanding your audience will benefit you in the long run and help you build the strategy along the way, especially in today’s consumer-driven landscape.
2. Brand Personality
After you identify and understand your target audience, then you can start crafting your brand personality. It is how you want your audience to describe you – your brand’s tone of voice, visuals, styling, layout, etc. Make sure you are consistent in every communication and application.
USP or Unique Selling Proposition is the marketing strategy of informing customers what sets you apart. USP is not about creating; it is about differentiating. It doesn’t have to be your product; it can be the history behind your brand, the shopping experience, service, etc.
4. Brand Name & Logo
While there are no strict rules in choosing a brand’s name, it is best to avoid generic names, ones that are similar to an existing brand or are hard to pronounce or spell. You want people to remember your brand, not get confused.
Too generic names like “Fashion Lover” or “Great Style” will compete with content from various sources when your customers Google it. So instead, do a quick Google search to ensure it is original and doesn’t resemble anything that already exists.
As for the logo, do research, and you can learn the best practices from some of the best logos ever created. What do they have in common? Simplicity.
5. Vision & Mission
Last but not least, to build brand identity is to determine your brand’s vision and mission. You might think, “Who reads the vision and mission anyway?” But they are more than just carefully combined words.
The vision and mission statements keep your company aligned. It steers your brand in the right direction every time. Writing these statements help you make the best decision for your brand and your business in general, whether in marketing, sales or even hiring. For example, if your mission is to provide sustainable clothing, then you will know who to collaborate with. The same applies to the products you own, the people you hire, and the messages you write.
Determining Your Sales Channels
Since you already know your audience’s preferences, habits and routines, determining your sales channels should come effortlessly. For example, where do they usually shop? Are they always on social media? What’s the best platform for them to discover your new brand?
Here are a few options to consider:
- Monobrand offline stores
- Department stores/shop-in-shops
- Your e-commerce site
- Social media
Planning Your Revenue and Stocks
After determining the sales channels you want to venture into, it is essential to plan your revenue through sales forecasting. It is the process of estimating future sales based on historical data, which enables your brand to make informed business decisions and predict short term and long term performance.
Benchmarking your actual sales performance versus your sales forecast will guide you towards every business’ Northstar: revenue.
Ensure you monitor and maintain your sales forecast based on actual performance diligently and reforecast when necessary. Proper sales forecasting will minimise the risk of missing opportunities in driving sales growth and expansion.
The number you plan in your sales forecast will help you create the OTB (Open-To-Buy). It is a budget that you need to calculate for your product/stocks every month based on your sales target. Having a proper OTB will help you minimise the risk of stock issues. If you are not familiar with OTB, check out this page to help you create your OTB and learn how to maintain it.
Marketing Your New Brand
Can I launch my first collection on my sales channel now? Yes! Can I take a break after that? Not yet! Launching isn’t the last step because you still have marketing to do. Marketing fuels your growth as it drives traffic to your sales channels, thus potentially leading to more sales.
Some concerns you might have now:
- I don’t have enough funds to do marketing.
- I don’t know how!
Don’t forget to constantly refer back to your brand personality and tone of voice when communicating your message to your customers, and keep your customers engaged.
Shipping and Logistics
Now, we’re entering the more tedious section, which is just as important. Shipping and logistics are something you need to consider thoughtfully. Here are three main areas:
- Types of shipping
- Flat rate shipping. This is the most common for new businesses. For example, you may set $8 for domestic shipping and $12 for international orders. However, note that this may not be attractive to your customers, especially those with lower-order values.
- Free shipping above a certain amount. Most companies in the industry use this method to meet customers halfway. Customers will purchase more to meet the threshold so that they can get free shipping.
- Free shipping based on location. Customers enjoy free shipping if their address is within a specified location range. While it entices customers, I wouldn’t recommend this option for you now. Brands such as ASOS and Boohoo can provide this service in the UK because they have the scale, so the profit margins absorb the delivery fees.
- Shipping methods
- National postal service is the largest shipping provider in your specific country, operated mainly by the government.
- Last-mile delivery partners are alternatives to national posts in most countries. Delivery services like FedEx, DHL and USPS Customer Gateway are examples. But, of course, if you’re going to focus on domestic orders primarily, there are delivery partners in your own country as well.
- Charge for shipping. This depends on your shipping courier, where you’re shipping to and from, the weight and size. Every postal service will have its shipping calculator. Alternatively, you can set up a shipping calculator directly into your website by looking for the plugin of your web software.
Now that you understand the basics of starting a clothing brand, you are prepared to embark on your entrepreneurial journey. Take time to lay everything out and build a solid foundation for your brand. What you can do after this:
- Review your current process based on the above steps.
- Complete the step(s) that you may have skipped in the past.
- Apply and monitor the strategy you make, and be adaptive when necessary.
With the proper tools and strategy and careful business planning, homegrown brands like yours now have the mileage to grow and avoid the path of being a one-hit-wonder. So, get your pen and paper, and start mapping out a bulletproof plan for your brand.