Updated: Aug 2
Traditionally, most fashion brands started off as direct-to-consumer (DTC) only as they got sales and press to eventually woo wholesale shoppers. But things are a lot different today and tons of brands – empowered by the likes of Shopify and social media – are DTC-only by choice.
There are tons of reasons why DTC is amazing – from building a cohesive brand and artfully growing a community, to increasing your profit margins. However, some of the most successful young brands in the business have wisely reconsidered the matter as they realize there’s only so much you can scale when you only sell online. In comes wholesale. Retail industry shakeups or not, wholesale is still very much an important piece of the pie. Strategic, well-aligned wholesale accounts can improve your brand’s image, build trust, increase reach, stretch your marketing dollars, expand your brand into new markets and increase your revenue.
Phew- that was a mouth full! So we still love DTC, just be sure to add wholesale to the equation (at least if you want to grow to scale). Step 1: Reconfigure Your Production Schedule First things first, your production cycles will need to change. You’ll need to have your new collections completely ready to present them to potential and current wholesale buyers 3 to 6 months before your actual delivery dates. You’ll also need to get a lot more organized so start getting comfortable planning way in advance. Step 2: Brainstorm Your New Pricing Strategy The thought of changing your prices can be a little intimidating at first, but you have to do it if you plan to make a profit. Cost will stay the same but wholesale prices will be radically different from retail and they’re going to shift your profit margins. Step 3: Upgrade Your Operations and Website It’s time for a wholesale-ready website. Ask your designer to add a password-secure section where only buyers with credentials can access your lookbooks and line-lists. As for the public pages, add a list of your retail clients so shoppers know where to shop. This informs potential buyers that you’re already selling wholesale and you’re not a strictly DTC brand. Now that you’ll be selling on a much larger scale (and with stricter requirements), it’s time to get into a proper facility. Your kitchen or spare bedroom is no longer going to cut it for the amount of ticketing, barcoding, poly-bagging and shipping in your future! Step 4: Diversify Your Designs If you sold all of the same products to retailers that you sell on your e-commerce site, why would shoppers bother to visit your store? Now, wholesale is amazing, but DTC needs to flourish too. It arms you with higher profit margins and more opportunities to fully represent your brand. It’s crucial that you’re never 100% reliant on the wholesale aspect of your business. Give consumers incentives to shop by way of exclusives. These are products to be sold through your wholly-owned channels only. Leverage events like product drops and capsule collections to maintain excitement for your sales channels. A major benefit of selling wholesale is the feedback you get from buyers. Take advantage of these insights – put them into action! You may need to alter the types of designs you’re selling based on the feedback you receive (i.e. what shoppers love from you most, what isn’t moving from your collections, fit issues…). This shouldn’t get into anything extreme and all changes should be on-brand. Step 5: Leverage Time Management Find the time to keep up with retailers for regular performance feedback and to keep your relationships strong (hello, reorders). You’ll also need additional time for marketing since retail partners will usually – and hopefully – require your participation in special activations, collaborations and pop-ups.