This is a follow up to Kathleen’s post on How to make a line sheet because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to decipher a poorly constructed line sheet. I’m not talking about fancy graphics that are nice and pretty, I’m talking about a document that has all the product information I need to write an order. Most line sheets use technical sketches, often created using either CAD software or Illustration software. Some line sheets use hand-drawn sketches, while a select few use actual photographs. How simple or complex your line sheet is depends on the nature of your line. In this post, I will outline some basic tips for creating a functional line sheet.
One of the things I feel is a good visual organizing cue would be to put a colored (or solid block) block in the upper right hand corner of the line sheet. Why? Because if I were thumbing through pages, it would be easy to identify which line sheet I was looking at (i.e. Spring 06) because I file my line sheets horizontally in hanging file folders. I try to be organized. Most companies put their line sheet info on the front page, centered. This means I have to either pull the line sheet out or push folders forward to peek down. I don’t always have that much space, so I thought it would be easier if you could see the collection information from the top of the sheet so it would be easier to find. I have seen a few line sheets with the information in this area which makes it so much more helpful. Wherever you choose to put it is your decision but be consistent with the placement.
I also have a preference for horizontal line sheets only because that’s how paper gets filed, on its side. But that’s just a minor nuance because most people are used to reading vertical sheets of paper. Whichever format you choose should ultimately depend on which format makes the most user-friendly layout.
I have created a few example line sheets (links at the close) that provide basic information that can -or should- be on a line sheet and is intended to be in black and white, to keep copy costs down. I have also included a link to an example swatch sheet because if you can keep your color all on one page, it’s less expensive to make copies. You can use a swatch card whether you use solids or prints. If you have a sales rep, your rep should always have high quality master copies to reproduce in case they run out of line sheets.
Speaking of swatch cards, I know reps that have to cut tiny swatches from their clothing samples (that they pay for) to make swatch sheets for their customers. They shouldn’t have to do this! And these reps usually do this for lines that are all about the colors (or prints), they may have 12 styles with a palette of 16 colors per season. Thus colors/prints are everything. It really disturbs me when DEs don’t take the time to provide swatch cards -a crucial selling tool- to the rep, yet many of the same DEs complain about a lack of sales. Yes, the buyers can see the line at market, but often specific color samples end up somewhere else (does anybody know what happened to that one top we had in sea foam?), while another person is viewing the line. Or better yet, a buyer needs to write the order after they see the line because they saw something else, somewhere else, that merchandises well with an item in your line and now they are having to figure out if the right green was “grass” or “avocado”. I think this is a real issue as a buyer because I have seen lines that would not make a swatch sheet and have 16 prints per collection and figure you should rely on your memory to know which one was “summer garden” or “spring bouquet”. This type of thinking means you’ll only sell to buyers who visit your showroom or show booth. Not using swatch cards means that the only way a buyer can write an order for your line is if they see it, even if the buyer is a repeat customer! In other words, if you made this A-line skirt for Spring and you bring it back for Summer in 4 new colors, as a buyer, I should be able to write that order without being forced to see a rep to see those new colors in person. You should have something -either a color sheet or swatch cards- to provide. What often happens is that you’ll lose orders because the buyer is not going to that specific market and won’t be able to see the line.
Now, back to the line sheets, I’m not going for aesthetics, or color combinations or anything else, I’m just trying to communicate the idea. Whatever fonts, layout and colors you ultimately choose are up to you. Here are the links to the sample line sheet and the sample swatch sheet. These aren’t fancy but they’re clean working documents. They don’t need to be fancy or gunked up because these are order taking tools, not marketing tools.
If you are producing a line or would hope to, you really need to read The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing because this entry (or this blog) cannot begin to teach you all you need to know. After all, if you didn’t know you needed line sheets, what else don’t you know? You can read sample chapters free online.