After I wrote my post about American Apparel’s line sheets, Kathleen told me that maybe a line sheet 101 type of post was in order.
A line sheet is many things, but above all it is a document -actually several documents- that communicates necessary information to your prospective buyers. You will actually need 3 kinds of documents. One is a line sheet, second is a swatch card and third is an order form. I’ll start with the line sheets; these must contain:
-Styles: pictorial descriptions of styles (usually sketches, sometimes photos)
-Style numbers: If you must use names, you must also have style numbers.
-Color and fabric information
-Delivery dates and order cut off dates
-Company and/or sales rep contact information
Now I’ll explain each category in detail.
Styles: pictorial descriptions
Most companies use sketches. Even the large companies use sketches, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have photos. It’s better to have a clear sketch than a crappy photo because a really bad photo will often make your line look bad. If you can’t sketch, have someone sketch for you. Or have someone make line art (computer generated sketches that are extremely crisp and clear). One important thing to do (I find a lot of companies don’t do this) if your items have important back detail, show the back. Please, show the back. Here is a sample line sheet (245kb).
Create your line sheets as if your buyers will never see your line in person.
I know a lot of companies rely on markets to show their line but there will always be buyers who didn’t see your line at market or saw it but didn’t write an order at market and need to remember what was great about your line. Your line sheets should remind them. If you have important fabric information, put that in your line sheets. Don’t rely on your reps to remember to tell each prospective buyer about it.
Names are cute, but style numbers are easier to remember. Try to have consistency with your style numbers as well. Some people mix style letters and numbers– WPE122, and some people use all numbers 8233 (which, in my opinion is easier to remember) and some people use all letters FPJSAX (which, is easy to remember only when it makes sense, this example is a real style number and FPJ stands for Flannel Pajama and SAX is for the saxophone print). I have seen companies use style codes like DNAYTOPDA and I think that just makes people feel dyslexic and they can’t remember how to write them down. Literate people instinctively try to make words out of collections of letters and when they don’t resemble anything meaningful, it becomes frustrating. Kathleen has a whole section in her book about why style numbers are easier for everyone to deal with, including your pattern maker, sample maker and contractor.
That’s pretty self explanatory. And you can include suggested retail prices as well.
Color and fabric information
When I go to market, the number one thing I find lacking in most line sheets is color and fabric information. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of line sheets I have seen that describe colors as “wild orchid, midnight rain, honeysuckle” and do not have color cards attached. Your color card does not have to be fancy, you don’t even need to have the kind with swatches of fabric cut out and glued to card stock, you could just make one swatch-based color card and xerox it for all I care. Even though color reproduction won’t be perfect, at least your buyers will know that honeysuckle is just a fancy word for gold and they won’t have to guess what it is. You can see a sample fabric swatch card here (153kb).
And if you work in prints, please have color information. Not every buyer will write an order at market and it is so frustrating trying to write an order after market and not being able to figure out what color corresponds to what name.
Season/Delivery dates and order cut-off dates
This one is so important, it needs to be at the top of the line sheet. Order cut-off date, start ship and complete ship dates are extremely important and line sheets are usually presented in order by delivery date. Earliest delivery on top, last delivery on the bottom.
If you have order minimums, you should put that information on your line sheets. Most companies have two minimums- minimum per style and overall order minimums. Here are examples of different kinds of minimums:
minimum: 4 pcs per style; $250 per order
minimum: 4 pcs per style per color; $250 per order
minimum: 4 pcs per style; $250 per delivery
minimum: 4 pcs per style; $1,000 per market (some companies want you to have a minimum order per market, regardless of the minimum per delivery)
Company or sales rep contact info
I think it’s nice when companies have their sales rep info pre-printed on their line sheets. It saves reps the time of having to make out labels and put them on every line sheet.
Most sales reps have their own triplicate order forms and some companies provide their own to the reps. I know of one company that provides a pre-printed order form with all their styles filled in (of course, this is not in triplicate) and I love it. Why? It’s so much cleaner with reduced potential errors. Perhaps you remember my rant about the sales rep who insisted on hand writing my order because she claimed “the owner knew her writing” but I couldn’t read a single thing she wrote. I still don’t know what the order says and guess what, I never got it. Maybe that owner couldn’t read her writing very well after all.
If you have a huge line, it’s not feasible to offer that type of form. But if you don’t, it makes it really easy for the buyer to just fill in the quantities under sizes and the price and style information is already there. It even had a space to write in the color. This particular company had a small line so they could do that. If you can it’s worth doing it, especially for market because it makes it easier on the buyer. Since everyone can read the style information, it definitely makes order processing easier. Here I’ve provided a sample order form (358kb).
You can easily go into any CopyMax, Kinkos or whatever huge copy center is in your town and have forms printed in triplicate (or duplicate). Another option is to buy your own at a printer supply store such as Xpedx, Kelly Paper or whatever is in your area.
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.