Deciding how to sell your clothing, jewelry, or accessories line can be daunting. Gone are the days of just selling wholesale because that was the only option.
I get asked this question every week, “Jane, what’s the best way to sell my clothing line/accessories line/jewelry line/ baby product /artwork/candle line?” It all depends on you (and yeah, I get that makes it harder for you to decide). If there was a magic formula, I’d give it to you.
But deciding how you’re going to sell your line really depends on your financial goals, your personal goals and vision, what product you sell, and your target customer.
I put together a list of 12 ways you can bring your fashion product to market.
Sell Your Line Online
You can set up your own online store, of course, sell on Etsy, or sell to online stores. A lot of designers I work with are setting their site up on Shopify, which is a great platform. The problem comes when entrepreneurs have a “build it and they will come” mentality. You need a lot of marketing to get eyeballs on your site, and then you need to know how to turn that traffic into paying customers. I love, love, LOVE this business model but it’s not as easy as it looks.
Sell Your Line at Home Parties
These are NOT your Mama’s Tupperware parties. Check out Worth NY – last I heard it was a $95 million dollar company. That’s a lot of Tupperware. Other big players in the direct sales market are Stella & Dot and ETCETERA.
Sell to Boutiques
The great thing about selling to boutiques is that you can really build a relationship with the buyer because she is often the owner. This type of continuity can make you and the boutique real “partners” in this business which can help in a few ways; if you deliver late one season, for instance, they’ll still trust you and also the ability to get valuable feedback from the buyer about your line. (For tips on increasing the size of orders, watch this video). Online stores like Nineteenth Amendment can also be a good option for emerging fashion designers.
Sell to Department Stores
I put this one in a different category than selling to boutiques and that’s because I see them as 2 completely different things. Selling to big box stores is definitely not recommended for new designers. The water is shark-filled and this sales avenue should be avoided until you get your sea legs – after a few seasons.
Sell Through Trunk Shows at Boutiques
I love trunk shows as a way to sell your line. In this case, when I say trunk shows I’m referring to selling at a boutique for 1 day or even a few hours. Retailers like trunk shows because they don’t have to place an actual order up-front which means there’s less risk for them. The advantage of a trunk show to clothing and jewelry designers is that you get access to all the store’s customers without having to do ALL the marketing. And even better? You get to meet the customers and get valuable feedback from them about your fit, style, colors, etc.
Sell at Art Fairs or Craft Fairs
Selling your clothing or accessories line at a street fair will give you instant gratification. The customers pay retail prices and you get the money right away. You also get the interaction with your customer which is hugely important.
Open a Retail Store
This is how I started my business but I wouldn’t recommend it to too many designers in the beginning. Why? Because the overhead is very high and you really want to get a sense of IF and HOW the market is responding to your line. I suggest you work hard to get proof of concept before you invest in a retail location.
Sell Through Private Label
Private label means that you produce your product and put another company’s label in it. For instance, Macy’s house brand is likely produced by another company that has their own branded line, and then they make separate section of their line to be used exclusively for Macy’s with the Macy’s branding.
Sell Your Product Using a Moving Store
I think the people behind Le Fashion Truck are pure genius. What’s cooler than a truck full of fashion items that will come to your door? There are a lot of different ways this could be re-invented for different niches. A student in my retail class designed a truck that sold ices cream + funky ice cream themed T-shirts. It was kitschy and hilarious
Sell Your Line Through Subscriptions
Think Birch Box for clothing. If you’re not familiar with Birch Box here’s how they describe themselves; Combining “monthly deliveries of personalized makeup samples with original editorial and an exciting ecommerce shop. It’s easy, efficient, and fun—a monthly delivery of surprise and delight.” I’ve seen apparel companies try the subscription model but I’m not convinced anyone’s having real success with it – yet. I believe in this model 100% and maybe it’s YOU who will be the one creative and resourceful enough to make it work.
Lots of businesses are using Instagram well for business, including this one, this one, and this one. Many brands are using Soldsie to make it easier to shop directly from Instagram. But recently I heard of a designer who ONLY uses Instagram for her clothing line. And I mean only – as in, there’s no website, no blog, and no Facebook page for her business. Just Instagram. She makes a sample, posts it up, and takes orders. Then she produces what sold in small batches. She has a loyal following on Instagram and it’s growing steadily. My only warning to her is not to put all her eggs in one social media basket.
Sell Your Line with a Pushcart
Before you roll your eyes, consider this true story. A designer I met a while back was selling a $45 item through a cart in a mall. Her sales were $10,000 per month from 1 cart! Imagine if you rolled this out to more malls.
And That’s Not All…
I see designers crushing it with other selling avenues too, including:
- Events – like La La Palooza
- Making uniforms (for hotels, restaurants, airlines)
- On TV – QVC, HSN
- Discount websites (The Outnet)
- Flash Sales (Your own or Ideeli, Gilt, Rue La La)
- Fashion crowdfunding sites (Before the Label)
- Email list ONLY – get on the list if you want to buy, no website
Confused about what to do first?
If you haven’t started selling yet, I urge you to do your research, get an education, and get some contacts in the industry. You can make a great business using any of these selling strategies. It all depends on your goals for the business, your product category, who you want to work with, and HOW you want to do it.
I started my business when I was 25 – with very little money, very few “connections”, and very little life (or business) experience! I made a great living using my creativity for over 14 years (until I sold the wholesale and retail sides of my business). Believe me… there’s nothing so special about me – I’m no smarter or more creative that YOU!
If I could do it, you can do it.
So tell me this…
1) Which is your MAIN sales avenue?
2) Which of the options on this list intrigues you most?
Let me know in the comments below. Stop lurking and start talking back to me! I’m listening…
As always, thanks for reading!