2022 was a turning point for everyone and brought strong changes to all industries. Suppliers, manufacturers, the raw materials market, logistics, even software and familiar means of communication began to require a new approach and elaboration. Let's discuss the main trend in fashion retail on the Russian market - expansion of the assortment through related product groups. The point is that shoe companies have begun to actively move towards clothing and accessories, and clothing manufacturers are looking at shoes as a point of growth. With SR expert Emina Ponyatova, we will analyze the key pros and cons for shoemakers moving towards expanding their product range or planning to do so.
expert in the areas of “Assortment planning”, “Analytics and category management” with more than 15 years of experience in the fashion industry. Work experience: buyer and category manager - brands Replay, Pepe Jeans, Hugo Boss, Armani Collezioni, Stefanel, Missoni. Head of Analytical Department - TsentrObuv and Modis. Author and speaker at courses at Fashion Factory, SkillBox and Fashion Advisers schools, consultant and online coach, teacher at the Russian Economic University named after G.V. Plekhanov.
In this article we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of a strategy to expand the assortment of a shoe store at the expense of clothing.
The benefits for an experienced shoe retailer are:
1. Shoe companies with some experience in purchasing and sales can avoid mistakes and problems that a completely new startup project would encounter - this includes planning, working with assortment within the season, and working with leftovers and illiquid stock.
2. Shoe companies with a good customer base already have loyal customers who know the brand, are confident in the quality and will be easier to accept a new range (clothing) from this brand than from a completely new and unknown one. Brand strength and customer loyalty are only beneficial - they will help drive certain traffic and ensure sales.
3. Shoe companies with one or more stores are in a more advantageous position when communicating with landlords compared to a new brand or new concept. Experience and financial stability are a guarantee of the long-term nature of the project when choosing a tenant for shopping centers and owners of retail space.
4. Experience in running a business in fashion retail in terms of financial literacy is also a plus and will help optimize costs.
5. The networking experience gained over the course of running a shoe business will also help in quickly setting up business processes on all key points with a new assortment. Almost all retail outsourcing services have their own specifics (clothing, shoes, accessories) and can be useful for both shoe and clothing projects.
6. Work with personnel is very similar in the shoe and clothing segments - search, selection, adaptation, training and development of a motivation system are built according to uniform standards.
7. Due to the fact that commercial equipment for closing stores has appeared on the market, opening new ones or expanding the area of existing stores will be much more profitable at the moment than one and a half to two years ago.
Now about the main disadvantages, pitfalls and specifics of working with clothes:
1. The level of competition in the clothing segment is significantly higher than in the footwear segment. This is due to the fact that in the clothing segment it is possible to start working with one line and launch an entire brand; there are no such strong restrictions on production as in shoes. Therefore, in the clothing segment there are many new brands, startup projects and collaborations with a variety of brands.
The brands that began their journey with a narrow capsule or one product group are widely known - 12 STOREEZ, which today has become the main guide to the world of basic collections and a basic wardrobe, and MONOCHROME, which began its journey into big fashion through designer printing, and whose first collection consisted of only four basic oversized sweatshirts. People enter the shoe business with a more substantial knowledge base and a well-developed work plan. In clothing, it is enough to have a cool idea and a creative component, because a T-shirt can even be with holes and scuffs, oversized or even second-hand, but uniquely stylized, or upcycled.
2. Production cycles in clothing and footwear differ significantly, so technologists and designers clearly cannot supervise both directions at once. And here the question arises of finding worthy professionals to develop a full-fledged collection and quality control, even despite the fact that analysts, financiers and marketers of two directions may be in the same working group. Cost optimization can only be achieved through support departments, but not through collection development and production departments.
Let's look at the specifics of shoe production in more detail. Shoes have a clear dependence on production technology - if the last or instep is not worked out, then the client will simply refuse this model. In clothing, it is possible to resort to stylistic techniques, and the most commercial move now is oversize and the distribution of a narrow size range. If previously, when choosing clothes, the client looked at the patterns, how the clothes fit, or the design features of the product, the size range was wide and had to take into account the specific figure of the target audience, but now the size range can be narrowed by popularizing the oversized style. This greatly facilitates work in the clothing segment, but companies still face the difficult task of duplicating each cycle, either by training their staff in the specifics of clothing production or by hiring highly specialized specialists.
3. The general problem is the lack of specialists in clothing production. The problem has existed for a long time, but due to the current situation in logistics it has worsened greatly. State programs have been developed for the training of seamstresses, cutters and technologists, but all this will give results in the long term. In the meantime, there is a huge shortage of specialists of this type in the industry, and this is a key negative factor. True, there already exist courses and retraining programs for specialists in the clothing segment. Solving the problem of shortage of professional personnel is not a quick process, and at first the cost of work and services in this area will be inflated.
4. Problem related to the market for materials, production machines and their maintenance. Purchasing fabrics and storing inventory is also an important problem when starting a full-fledged clothing production process. Exhibitions, specialized chats and communities are trying to solve it, but at this stage it is the bottleneck in the process of starting a clothing production.
Summarizing all the advantages and difficulties of shoemakers working in the “Clothing” direction, I will share several life hacks that, I hope, will help avoid mistakes at the stage of introducing new product groups into the shoe business.
1. When expanding the range of the shoe business by introducing a line of clothing, it is necessary to take into account the strengths of the current business:
- if the current brand has a strong winter collection, then in support of this seasonality it is logical to launch a capsule of outerwear and related accessories. These are hats, scarves, hoods, gloves, mittens and ponchos.
2. It is necessary to understand the needs of the target audience for additional assortment, which will then be a plus to the current main collection. It’s simpler and easier to start with accessories, which will be expanded and strengthened by new product and product groups. We act with the summer assortment in the same way as with the winter one: we expand it with the beach collection and summer tunics, dresses or pareos; further, with a high percentage of sales of the first capsule and development of the entire chain, it is possible to expand the range and deepen new directions.
3. It is necessary to carefully consider and put into production commercial equipment. This is a whole process, including monitoring its types and costs, revising the store planogram taking into account new product groups, calculating capacity and forming orders for capsules and complex offers, working together with the production of shoes and clothing for the simultaneous launch of collections.
4. Announce the expansion of the range through all channels of communication with the client. To achieve a high percentage of sales, it is necessary to ensure high incoming traffic, and this can only be achieved through marketing - good communication with clients, targeting and advertising, thoughtful displays and promotional events for clients. The existing customer base should learn about new product groups in advance, and new customers should be attracted due to increased demand for Russian manufacturers of clothing and footwear.
As traffic increases, store revenue increases due to increased conversion and average check. Conversion increases due to working with the assortment and the possibility of selling additional assortment. The average bill increases significantly due to the introduction of a full range, not accessory groups.
5. Regularly analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of new positions. Even when introducing 2-3 models of outerwear or beach tunics or dresses, it is necessary to monitor sales and key metrics on a regular basis, identify growth points and prepare for full scaling. When launching and testing, we can take into account the high purchase cost of products associated with small purchase volumes, but when scaling, we will already rely on real sales statistics and the identified needs of the target audience.
A plus will be gaining experience in new business processes with a new range and studying production capabilities in a new segment. That is, when purchasing several items, we may not be so commercially effective, but by measuring all commercial expenses and profits on small volumes, we will be ready to draw up a clear plan for scaling.
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