I wanted to piggyback off the post Kathleen wrote about current line planning:
Now, as a DE and a model of lean manufacturing, I’d hope your style and sample production schedule would be running closer to delivery dates than would be the larger companies. This of course, being the advantage of being a smaller, more nimble company. Retailers are happy to buy closer to season so if you’re a little behind getting out of the starting gate, it’s not too late to start now but you don’t have any time to waste.
The inherent dilemma comes if you’re a designer who is trying to get press for your line. Mainly in monthly magazines which have a 4-6 month lead time. At some point, most DEs will need to have some press to receive validation among retailers. To do this, people often look to get their items in the magazines that retailers read which include trade publications and monthly consumer oriented fashion magazines. If you’re designing women’s ready to wear, that could be anything from Allure to Lucky; if you’re designing children’s wear, that could be Parent, American Baby, etc.
The thing to keep in mind is if you want to do this but you show your samples closer to delivery, you may not have enough time to try and get publicity for your line.
This is an inherent dilemma for me as well. I retail my own products so theoretically, I have more time to put a collection together but I can’t get press for (as an example) a Valentine’s collection if I am designing and producing just in time because I would need to start showing the line to editors in September.
The other inherent problem with being a DE and showing close to delivery is that a lot of retailers have used up a lot of their OTB or “open to buy”. There is a general presumption that you get the best selection of merchandise at the first showing of a line. With each subsequent showing, as you get closer to delivery, there is less availability as styles sell out. Because this is a general presumption, those markets most close to deliver are typically used to fill in gaps in merchandising and not to make major buys.
I think it’s a catch 22 because it benefits DEs to show close to delivery but retailers have not yet categorically changed to buy that way. While retailers are very happy to buy close to delivery, the reality is that most have committed their major purchases as their large accounts require early orders because they either manufacture overseas or they sell out of popular styles quickly. As a DE/Retailer I would love to buy everything close to delivery but I know I can’t because my popular lines will be sold out. And no one wants to be a bottom-feeder.
It is strategically beneficial to be lean and have short lead times, but know what you’re up against. A good middle ground is to have some portion of your line be a little consistent so that you can book orders early, while still offering flexibility for retailers and lean production.