Hazards of selling close to delivery dates

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.

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  1. Linda says:

    I couldn’t find this info in Kathleen’s book, so I was wondering if you could tell me what the normal delivery dates are for spring and fall collections? For example, when do retailers start stocking their shelves with Spring/Summer 06 stuff?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. Sandee says:

    “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.”
    I work for a childrenswear designer/manufacturer and while we work closer to the season because we have our own store and website, this has affected our wholesale sales – most stores have spent all of their budget on other brands. Some have kept some money aside for us because they love what we do and know it sells well. Our saving grace is new stores which traditionally cannot get very much stock if they have not planned well ahead and so we often supply them with large amounts. – of course they would never find us if we did not advertise heaviliy in the best childrens fashion publication in Australia.
    We generally find our orders come later in the season – when the retailers find they have gaps in their range or have had a great selling season and need more stock.This of course carries a larger risk as we have the stock manufatured and waiting for orders.
    We have started doing an indent range for our summer season which is our biggest season and try and have about half of the ranges samples ready for selling at a large trade show.

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