The new revolution of technology threatened almost every industry, but especially retail in fashion. The growth of online sales has decreased the traditional retail store revenues. Technology enabled a change in customers’ shopping behavior and provided a lot of tangible and intangible benefits. Customers are using mobile phones to discover which stores are nearby, decide where to shop, and make the purchase itself. Forrester predicts that by 2017, 60% of all retail transactions in the United States “will involve the Internet in some way.” This may include a practice whereby consumers walk into a store to look at merchandise but leverage their smartphone to see if the item is available cheaper elsewhere before purchasing.
Since the birth of the cloud and the internet, the fashion industry has adapted by using software and cloud-based solutions for tracking supply chains and customers in real time. Technology has changed our lives during the last few decades in every facet of life. The fashion industry has experienced huge technology effects, as well. This industry has become more and more competitive, especially fashion designers and new fashion entrepreneurs. Consumers have more choices than before when traditional physical stores served their buying needs; they use their internet-enabled mobile devices for e-commerce sites, social media, and apps to meet their needs. These trends are a threat to business owners who are not willing or able to embrace technology. Having proper planning and skilled resources will help overcome some of these challenges.
A fashion designer is just like any other professional job that requires proper skills. Not everyone can become a great fashion designer, but a fashion designer is one of the more high paying jobs in the USA, since on average, a good entry-level fashion designer makes about $64,000 per year without any real experience (United States Department of Labor, 2014 Median pay for fashion designer). This is almost the same as the pay scale of a graduate of New York University’s Stern School of Business. According to the US Department of Labor, the fashion industry had more than 23,100 job openings in 2014. However, versatility of skills is an absolute requirement for staying competitive.
Fashion designers must be visionaries and be good at executing their visions from the concept to the final product of the clothing line, using good technical skills in the process for clothing production, fabrics and textiles. Not all fashion designers want to be entrepreneurs. Some just want to work in a reputable company while others want to start their own business. Just like any other industry, business can be challenging. It is an industry like computer technology, because it changes so fast.
Some of the biggest challenges a fashion designer faces are the following:
- Unable to choose target customers
Decide the type of product you want to design and for whom. Whether it is children, women, or men, you must decide your target audience. Find a niche or develop your strengths in specific areas rather than diversifying yourself in too many product lines and losing your focus.
- Lack of innovation
Why do customers need your product? Find out what differentiates your product line so you can stand out. Today’s market is flooded with a lot of designs, and consumers are confused what to choose. Designers must consider building repeat customers so they will become loyal. Apart from basic designs, sewing, draping, pattern-making, offer unique values to your designs. Show strengths in your products that set you apart from your competition.
- Lack of business acumen
Fashion schools do not teach the basics of running a business. Activities such as sourcing, costing, markups, floor margins, quality quotes from vendors and suppliers, and other important business activities are not taught in schools. Not all designers know how to forecast demand of their product and maintain consistent sales revenue. You should partner with others who can help you in these areas.
- Lack of good reliable manufacturers
Most of the time, having a good reliable manufacturer who will maintain quality, produce on time, and offer reasonable prices is a challenging and daunting task. Consider finding a local manufacturer or a local agent who can help with overseas manufacturing.
- Poor marketing
You need to be branded where your customers will be, whether it is on social media, magazines, billboards, etc. Figure out a way to reach your customers.
- Competition on price
You need to be smart enough to read your competitors’ prices and come up with your profitable price range. How do you know exactly which products are going to sell and in what variations (sizes, colors)? Capture historical sales data for your product and analyze your competitors’ information.
- Design copy-cats
Lazy designers will copycat your design and sell it very cheap. Consider trademarking your work and involving a legal team, such as legal zoom to protect your work.
If you want to succeed in this industry as a business entrepreneur, you must have the followings skills:
- Finance, learn your numbers
- Adaptability, embrace change
- Open-mindedness, listen to others and predict business threats
- Being a life-long, constant learner, learn about trends and economics, and
- Entrepreneurial drive
In your entrepreneurial journey, you need to have a good support system for your success. Understand the weakest links in your success based on this article, and take the necessary actions to ensure the best results. I would love to hear your opinion on this, so please leave comments below so I can address them.