Note: I’m off today for a week in Canada to do factory troubleshooting and on site training. I haven’t conferred with the client to see what if anything I can post about the experience. I can’t be reached by phone except in the evenings when I can skype. In any event, don’t hesitate to contact me if needed. Email responses and comment approvals (if needed) will be tardy.
Today’s entry came in from a very frustrated swim wear retailer. While few make swimwear, I thought his letter was very educational, providing insight as to why retailers become manufacturers. If you don’t want your doors competing with you, look for the holes in the market and the content of their complaints. Retailers are in a unique position to take the pulse of the marketplace. By the way, this writer is very serious about doing this and has made extensive plans to pursue the project that I have not published here. The summary of complaints is:
- Timely product delivery during critical selling time periods
- Range of products available
- The ability to re-order good sellers through out the selling season
- Fulfillment problems such as wrong sizes and quantities
- Inconsistent quality of goods
The swim wear retailer writes:
My wife and I are writing you out of desperation and I hope we are not wasting your time. We are online swim wear retailers with several websites and have been in business 8 years. We purchase primarily from 2 different swim wear manufacturers, one in Florida and one in Texas, of which we are their primary buyers. We have purchased from 8 others over the years but discontinued them for one reason or another. Primarily lack of available product for purchase, inconsistent quality, massive amounts of untruth concerning product popularity, sending us wrong sizes instead of what we actually order, among other reasons.
We sell approximately 45,000 pieces a year. The main problem we have with our 2 main suppliers is stock levels. During the busiest months of the year they constantly run out of popular product for weeks at a time. It is extremely frustrating. Our warehouse space is limited and we cannot stock hundreds of each color/style/size just to make it through these times. On that note, about 75 percent of our sales are in solid colors (14 colors in about 20 styles) and the remain 25 percent in prints (usually around 30 prints give or take, number of styles varying with print). The prints are a lower percentage only because we have to discontinue popular prints for weeks when we run out and cannot get restock, that and limited availability of new prints along with the manufacturer offering new prints in incredibly crappy patterns. (On a side note, we have been in business for 8 years, go to Florida to the beaches multiple times a year etc) and can look at new prints and tell straight up if they will sell or not. Fortunately we are never wrong…NEVER… and the manufacturers we deal with seem to offer 2 types of prints, those that will sell and those that will have no chance of selling…it’s very weird). We are proverbially between a rock and a hard place. What sells without a doubt is being able to ship same day. PERIOD! That is why other companies are losing a large part of the marketplace. Our sales suffer badly when we put…”will ship within 3 days” on our websites.
There is also a major need for plus size swimwear in the U.S. and no one sells it but China in preset lots. AND believe it or not, our main manufacturer just raised their prices exactly 20% after raising most of them last year 15%. I have no idea what they’re thinking but word in their shipping and receiving is they are getting a huge number of complaints (yes we visit them regularly and I know the help). The owners just don’t seem to care at all.
Another aspect that is disappointing with the current swimwear manufacturing segment is that they don’t release new designs until February at the earliest. Now you might think this was a good thing, however ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THEM are stocked until mid June or the end of May at the earliest. This totally destroys the swimwear spring break business. Better than 30% of our sales are between late February and the first of April. They are firmly tied to the “fashion” industry which doesn’t start putting out new releases fully into production until may. I don’t understand truly.
We have talked for years of doing our own manufacturing. I have 2 regional sales people willing to pick up our designs if we produce them. (I have good rapport with our salespeople) but as you know, established retailers are less willing to try anything new during tough economic times.
Would it be to our benefit to manufacture ourselves? There are only a limited number of styles and everyone makes the same styles (as I said earlier we have dealt with at least 10 manufacturers, they sometimes call the style something different but the cuts are exactly the same in most cases, a quarter inch difference here and there is about it). Our bottoms come in 3 or 4 sizes (small through x-large) and our tops come in 5 sizes (small through dd). We also live near a fairly large immigrant population and I have talked with the leaders of their catholic church who have informed me that there are many very experienced sewers in their congregation that need work. This is standard swim wear material, 16% spandex/84% nylon material. The swim wear does have half linings. Full in the tops, half in the bottoms.
We can buy the equipment, overlocks etc. I have also last week contacted a somewhat local manufacturer of coverups. She is a very small business that makes mesh coverups (I’ve been informed that if you can sew meshes reliably you’ll have no problem with lycra/nylon mixes) and she is quoting the party line and wanting 250 minimum of each color/style/size. We simply cannot afford to store quantities at that level. I pointed out that her business was suffering and she claimed she would simply close down and wait for better times vs going below standard contract cut and sew levels. What the heck is that?
Can you give us some advice please? We desperately need it.