In What is a bridge line?, I briefly explained what this meant for glossary purposes. I’ve always meant to explain how the various price levels work and why even a small company might decide to develop various labels, lines and off shoots.
First of all, since it is common for a designer line to be knocked off by a lower cost competitor, a smart designer will often knock themselves off by creating a bridge line. If consumers can’t afford the designer line, a designer will often create a lower priced bridge and even a contemporary line to occupy the position that a knock off competitor would assume. This is why the largest designers have many product lines and of varying price points. That way, anyone can afford to buy a product with that designer’s cachet. Still, you don’t have to be producing a designer line to knock yourself off. Wherever you were, you’d target the next level down.
I realize that a lot of DEs are very small but you need to be very focused with the price point segment you’re targeting with your label (assuming you only have one). If your price points are all over the map, maybe you’re ready to develop another label and knock yourself off. You’ll always need a range of prices in your mix but if prices are too disparate, you may need to develop another label or line for those lower priced products. I don’t see this problem as much in clothing as I do in handbags and accessories. I think the people in soft goods may have more options in this area.
In summary, one way to beat out competitors who’d copy you is to put yourself in their shoes and do it first. It may be a good thinking exercise even if you don’t actually do it. Were you to use it as an exercise, what are the elements of your product that could be considered negotiable or trade-offs? Are there ways you can lower costs using less expensive inputs or processes with the goal of appealing to another segment of market value*? I’m not saying you necessarily should but it would be interesting to consider how a competitor would knock you off, it could be a jumping off place to troubleshoot and brainstorm possible cost reductions.
*I am trying to avoid describing this in terms of “quality” because the concept of value matters more. People are not shopping for the best quality, they’re shopping for the best value. For example, no one is going to want a silk, hand made, heirloom quality graduation gown so it’s not quality that governs, but value.