While it may sound like a crazy idea in 2016, you should consider getting your shirt designs into traditional brick-and-mortar stores. This defeats the whole purpose of creating your very own online empire.
However, getting your designs into physical stores doesn’t mean opening your own. In fact, selling shirts in stores shouldn’t be your main stream of revenue at all, but an additional stream. Better still, it is a great way to obtain a new field of exposure & could help you become a bonafide brand.
Probably the easiest transition to create after coming up with a killer design or two or even a specialized line of shirts, is to target specialty shops. Clothing store brands target urban clothing designs specifically, giving customers a chance to find cool, hip, and unique designs that they can’t find anywhere else, even online. Their stores are the dead center of a major city or hub, giving your brand a big audience to sell to.
However, before you begin knocking on storefront’s doors, here is a number of key ideas in mind:
Tips For Turning Up Prepared
1. Know Who You Are Pitching To
If you have a wild, crazy, “out there” style / set of designs, it is probably not the best idea to start out at the stores your mom shops at. Whether a store’s line of clothing is centered minimal designs or crisp, clean shirts, they probably do not want anything too bold / artsy on their shelves.
On the other hand, if you are trying to get in with an edgier store or brand, make sure your design has enough going for it that it could be a good fit. If your shirt stands out compared to what they’re already selling, you should talk to someone else. Even if they are nice and allow you to put your designs up, there’s a fairly good chance that it will not sell well with their buyers.
2. Do not Get Lost in the Sauce
While it is understandable that you want your shirts to be competing around what is currently “in” fashion-wise, it is not a great idea to just simply add to the white noise. If you are pitching your line to a store, they don’t want to see what’s current and trendy. They want to know that you’re typical design process & style melds with theirs. Show them bold & original; they may not love it, but they’ll at least respect it.
If 100 designers are all making the same thing, it does not matter if you do it better. Stores want to know that you are going to come up with shirts that they can sell. Whether your designs run on the more risqué side, is the particular store going to carry it? Are your designs original, or are they only different takes on current designs? For instance, are you featuring a different dramatic picture of a city skyline rather than your typical San Francisco / New York picture? You need to show range while showing you meld with their brand image.
3. Always Show Up Prepared
Just as you could show up to a job interview with a résumé or a portfolio, you should bring in some sort of a tangible sample with you when you are pitching your designs. You do not have to carry around an arm full of printed shirts, but you could have a few of your best designs to hand. While a book full of designs works well, having the designs you are especially proud of printed out on a shirt could increase your chances of sealing the deal.
If you want to go full Shark Tank, you can even bring someone along to model your shirts. The downside is you could need enough designs to showcase your range, they may not want to spend the time waiting for them to change shirts.
Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Is Your Brand Name Mature Enough?
It is one thing when you are selling your own shirts. Your brand can have any name you want, and it does not matter because it is the only brand in stock. But when someone else is going to be physically hanging your shirt next to name designers, is your brand’s name going to work?
If your brand name is trying too hard to be edgy or urban, it is not going to work well with “real” brands that have names that sound like fashion designers. Whether your brand name uses lingo that is en vogue, then you better believe they are going to pass on you. No one wants to see “Swag Shirts” in 10 years.
2. Is It Even Worth Selling With Them?
In order to be a viable selection for partnering with the store, you are going to be expected to sell to them at a low price so they could tack on their percentage. In the end, if they are only going to make a couple of bucks off of every shirt sale, are they going to want to follow the partnership long term?
Another question before spending too much energy getting your shirts in their store is how many units would they need? If it is a small trendy boutique, they cannot be willing to buy the number of shirts you need them to. Other larger stores want way more units than what you are able to give them.
Are you going to be able to make your costs work with an agreed number of units? For instance, if they are going to mark up your shirt at $30 & you’re still using as cheap of fabric possible, buyers are going to skip your design for something of a good value. If you wind up spending too much on materials, you are looking at losing money rather than supplementing your revenue stream.
3. Do People Know What To Expect From You?
Chances are if someone buys your shirt in a store, they have either purchased from you online, or they have compared your design online before buying in the store. Unfortunately, if they are snooping for info, they may see that you are not performing real strong. They may have a hard time paying full retail price if you are not even moving as many units online as you have in the past.
As another way to confuse them, if your prices are different online, why could they pay the higher amount in store? As long as you can show that you’re a strong contender with relatively the same pricing, they’ll have an easier time taking a chance on a purchase.
Final Considerations and Closing Deals
1. Keep an Eye Out for the Bigger Store Names
It can seem that when selling in physical stores you should go big or go home. However, getting on the shelves with bigger brands may wind up shooting you in the foot later. Whether a small specialty store sees you on the shelf of a larger retailer, are they going to sell the same thing their competitor is? Are they going to give you “selling out” lecture?
Are they going to have the confidence that they need to stock your shirts? A large retailer can move far more units at a fraction of the cost. A smaller store may struggle quite a bit to do anywhere near the same amount of volume / sales figures.
2. Small Details Still Matter
While selling online give you the freedom to simply stuff a shirt into an envelope & call it “packaging”, your shirt is going to need a little extra flair when it is sitting on the shelf along with everyone else.
If any part of the shirt looks boring, it is going to make the entire shirt seem boring in the shopper’s mind. When the shirt looks like a professionally designed brand, you will have an easier time making it a self-fulfilling prophecy & become a big name.
3. Sweeten the Deal
When pitching to a store owner to carry your brand, the customers are not the only ones taking a chance on you. You are going to have to give them some sort of incentive, like offering a full refund on a certain amount of unsold shirts.
Chances are, they aren’t inclined to take all the risk on a designer they have never sold before. By showing you are willing to work with them, they’ll be a little more willing to agree to carry your designs.
4. Focus on Marketing to the Owner
Just as you spend time marketing to clients, you need to market to your new partner. If you do want to put together some form of portfolio, it could be a good idea to have the models look like real models, professional-looking hair & makeup in tasteful photo shots.
If you have live models, make sure they look the part & not just like they are your sister or friend who happens to be wearing your shirt. Whether using a visual media form, make sure the values are up to snuff, yet appropriate. And finally, if you are going to depend on your website, make sure this looks like an actual website from a real designer.