Production planning: girls denim line

I get a lot of questions about production planning. Normally I’d answer this one privately but then I thought it’d be good for you guys to help out with some advice from your practical experience. If you have the book, you’ll see that much of her plan is intact; she just needs a little tweaking. The other thing is, because she’s obviously read it well, her questions are very good. The average questions I get aren’t this well thought out and sharing them will help those of you who are still in the production planning stage to ask similar questions. At the outset, it’s more important to have the right questions than the right answers as the latter can vary so much according to any given product line. So, put on your peer consulting hat and have at it while I finish up some past due client work (I’m also working on mittens). Maria writes:

I am planning to launch a jeans company for curvier girls aged 13-18; I’m still in the planning stages. I’d like to plan out the first hypothetical year, and then spend that year observing (going to trade shows, costing, reading everything, etc). But first, I need that hypothetical year to begin with.

The current plan is to produce three collections per year: Fall, Winter (Fall2), and Spring-Summer. Is that overly ambitious for a first-year firm? Should I cut it down to 2 collections (Fall & Spring-Summer)? I’d like to make no more than 5 jean styles per collection; optimal would be 3-4 really fantastic, profitable, selling, designs.

So, right now I’m planning out production- i.e., Kathleen’s standard 16-week pre-production stage, market, and then “post”-production, which would be actually physically making whatever makes minimums.

After that comes market, which is apparently a 3-4 month period. (Assume I have the money to do this): I’d like to do one or two trade shows, and some trunk shows (depending on the actual definition of a trunk show and all that entails…). If not, I’d like to have traveling sales reps.

After that, assuming the designs make minimums,– is the actual production process also a 16-week process? It seems that it could be fit easily into an 8-10 week process, if you are motivated and precise. I thought this “nimble-ness” was one of the chief advantages of being a small company– except, there are just-in-timers who have cut the concept-to-shipping time frame down to like 8 weeks??? I’m going to assume these are not at all my competitors!!!

If I could, I’d like to spend time in pre-production (pre-market) making sure the product is as marketable as possible; after that, I’d like to economize on time as much as possible in order to ship in a very timely manner.

According to this schedule, the company would be in the pre-production, post-production, and market- phases for at least two collections, year-round. Is this correct? Is it do-able?

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11 comments

  1. Esther says:

    Great questions! Actual cutting & sewing production time should only take about 2 weeks. It is best to have a contractor on board before you go to market and try to estimate volume for them. They have to put you on their tentative schedule so there will be enough time to produce and ship your goods. Since you are a new line, you will need to have as much time as possible to take care of problems.

    Immediately after the major trade shows (like the next day or two), decide what will be cut. How much you actually cut depends on a lot of variables – additional orders, fabric minimums, sales, etc. Kathleen has some good guidance here on her blog and in her book. Depending on your fabric sources, you should place fabric/trim production orders within a week of the show. The fabric alone could take 4-8 weeks to be delivered.

    Say you attend the Magic show in August. Your production schedule would go something like this:

    1 week after show – determine styles to cut
    2 weeks after show – place fabric/trim orders, start designing next season, grade patterns and send to contractor.
    4-6 weeks after show – start production
    8-10 weeks after show – receive goods, quality inspect, prep for shipping, ship.

    This schedule assumes ideal conditions and diligent planning. In reality it will probably take more time – especially as a new line. It could take as long as 16 weeks. Many retailers will put a ship by date on their orders. You can work backwards from those dates. I am sure others who read this will have their own opinons too.

    I am wondering if a jeans line is released 3x a year? I could see 2x a year….

  2. Esther says:

    I just wanted to add that companies that can turn goods in 8 weeks or less already have established relationships. They either do in-house manufacturing or have a close relationship with a contractor. They use fabric that is easy to obtain or purchase it early in anticipation. These are the kinds of things you can do with more experience and the right contacts. It would be unusual for a new company to be able to do this.

  3. maria says:

    Thanks so much, Esther! I can’t believe that fabric shipping times hadn’t even occurred to me! (!). Your comment was exactly what I’ve been looking for- hopefully others can volunteer their input, too.

    The three times per year is simply to capitalize on the fact that jeans are a staple, but a fashionable one, and people buy many pair in the wintertime. If you differentiate them from the fall collection, I think you can energize sales.

    What do you think?

  4. Alison Cummins says:

    Maria,

    I think you don’t know whether your sales need energising or not yet! I think two collections a year is enough for your first year. If you want to bring out winter jeans your second year you’ll be much better prepared to coordinate the overlapping cycles once you’ve been through it.

  5. Esther says:

    I don’t really have experience doing denim lines – girls dresses is more my thing. The fabric shipping time depends on where your fabric is coming from and how much of it you need. If it must come from overseas, you will need the time for transit by boat. The fabric mills don’t keep items in stock unless it is a basic, so they need time to manufacture. Popular prints sell fast and it can take 4-8 weeks for printing a new run. Add additional time if you are having embroidery/printing/washing done. The fabric mill should give you a delivery date.

  6. Malissa says:

    I know a denim company that produces in US. They’re munium is one roll of denim(50 yds) their usuall turn around is 2 weeks (in stock) but that’s because they’ve been throught bankrupcy so many times they only take checks or money orders up front. The company is Galey and Lord and the product are Swift Denim. They make beautiful colors in a 14 oz weight, and the three styles of denim we carry wher I work are $5.95yd wholesale. Good Luck

  7. I think doing a spring/summer and fall/winter 2 seasons basically is enough for any new clothing company…at first the sell through will probably not be strong enough to support more production and you don’t want too many store markdowns or oversaturate the store with new and old product…take time and build get the feel of producing two collections per year and than take own 4 collections and as productivity increases so should your order volumes.

  8. MIA says:

    HI MY NAME IS MIA. I’M PLANNING ON LAUNCHING A WOMEN’S CLOTHING LINE THIS UPCOMING YEAR. I’M ACTUALLY IN THE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT STAGE OF THE LINE AND HAVE BEEN INVITED TO BIRMINGHAM FASHION WEEK. BUT WHAT I DON’T QUITE UNDERSTAND YET IS THE BUYING PROCESS AS IT TAKES PLACE AT A FASHION SHOW.
    I UNDERSTAND THAT RETAILERS USUALLY PLACE ORDERS, BUT MY QUESTION IS DO THEY PAY IMMEDIATELY OR ONCE THE ORDERS ARE FILLED?
    I’VE BEEN HAVING THE HARDEST TIME ACQUIRING ANY INFO. ON THE ACTUAL BUYING PROCESS THAT TAKES PLACE AT A SHOW, OFCOURSE WITHOUT ACTUALLY CONTACTING A BUYER, SO IF ANYONE CAN ASSIST ME WITH A BASIC OVERVIEW, THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.
    THANK YOU

  9. martin says:

    MIA,

    you can do an up front as Malissa stated or do something like a 40/60, which is they pay you 40% up front and 60% (the rest) when you are ready to ship. Ultimatley you are in charge and make the terms.

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