The Fashion Darling writes today about business management for fashion brands: what you should do when it comes to order management, deliveries, account management and finances. Read on for her advice catered to the fashion business.
In my online fashion business course, I interviewed many industry professionals like fashion buyers, fashion agents, fashion distributors – and they all say how important it is to streamline your business processes so that you can be easy to deal with.
The biggest problem for new fashion brands is account management. Buyers often say that their orders get lost, invoices are followed up on when they have been paid or order delivery dates get longer and longer. It is crucial that you streamline these areas so that you look professional. If you’re not easy to buy from, they WILL buy from somewhere else.
When you show your range to a buyer you most likely won’t get an order on the spot. They have to go to their HQ and look at their budget, evaluate what they are ordering from other labels and only then, they will make an order.
Because of this, you need to give them a printed order form (they like to take notes during the showing, as they won’t remember each of your styles) and also provide an online ordering portal (check out TradeGecko’s B2b platform) so they can order online when they are ready. They'll also have a digital copy of their order.
Losing a buyer’s order and creating more work for them is a sure way to get a black mark against your name, and that takes you one step closer to being dropped. Be easy to deal with and save them time and they will love you forever!
Make sure you get clear delivery timeframes from your factory. This way, you can include them on your order forms and give them to the buyer when you’re showing your range. Then, do everything in your power to stick to these timelines.
Your deliveries SHOULD NOT take more than 3 months from date of order. If they do, you will lose the buyer and their business.
This is one of the biggest complaints I get from buyers and agents: it affects their businesses when you’re late because they can’t sell – so make sure you don’t lose business because of lateness.
Relationships are key in this business, so make sure you manage your buyers and stores well. I suggest you use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform to keep track of a buyer/store and your history with them.
An easy and affordable option (and one which I use personally use) is Capsule CRM. It has a free option which includes two users, so you can create an account free of charge and test it for a few weeks.
Capsule CRM syncs with FreshBooks online accounting system and lets you see outstanding invoices inside the CRM. It lets you add notes, upload files, create tasks with reminders and add workflows so you can streamline the way you work.
A couple of ways you can create meaningful relationships with your buyers:
- send them a birthday card every year
- send them flowers when they have a big life event like a wedding, a baby or when they open a new store
- invite them to your VIP events and launches
- visit their store and get feedback from their sales staff – not many designers do this, but it’s crucial that you know what sales staff think of your product
Use an online accounting / bookkeeping platform so that you can streamline your invoicing! Buyers often say invoicing is a huge problem for new brands so make sure you don’t annoy or disappoint them with your rudimentary systems.
Use FreshBooks or Xero to issue digital invoices and to make this process easy for the buyer. I use FreshBooks because it syncs with everything else I have set up (Capsule CRM, Mail Chimp, WordPress) and it’s very easy and affordable.
FreshBooks lets you see when a client has viewed an invoice, when it has been printed on their end and when it has been paid. You can also issue credits when, for example, a style gets cancelled and you have to refund the buyer for their order. The client can log in at any time to view their account statement. It really couldn’t be easier!
Action steps for better business management
- Look at your current processes and see what you can improve
- How do you invoice your customers? Can you do this better?
- How do you look after your clients? Can you do better?
About the author
Vanja Stace is the founder and principle of The Fashion Darling School of Business.
The Fashion Darling was founded in 2015 and has helped many international designers. In July 2015 she won the Fashion Edupreneur 2015 Award, which recognises excellence in the delivery of educational programs in the fashion industry.
The Fashion Darling will be back next friday with tips for your fashion line. In the meantime, if you have any questions for Vanja, reach out to her on www.thefashiondarling.com.