The best thing about the current retail space is that there are so many ways to set up shop, with the most popular being brick-and-mortar and starting an e-commerce business. Each route offers its difficulties and benefits; you’ll have to do more research to find what fits for your brand, but here’s a topline view:
PROS: A physical presence adds to a brand’s legitimacy, the location can introduce new customers to your brand, and there are more opportunities to provide excellent customer service and unique customer experience.
CONS: High startup costs from working with a major retailer, might need to invest in costly programs to create purchase orders and meet minimum quantity requirements.
Even in 2020, as most shoppers are moving away from physical locations and pursuing online businesses, there is some appeal to having your shirts in a brick-and-mortar store. If you want to work with more prominent retailers, you will have to invest more money in your product.
You’ll want to make sure your product looks as professional as possible, from printing hang tags to sending out your product in polybags and the correct packaging. You will also need to create a line sheet that lists out all your products, pictures, the cost, and the suggested retail.
Then comes pitching your product: Some people find success at trade shows, while others research retailers’ buyers and email them through LinkedIn.
In my former life, I was a buyer, and the success rate of this didn’t always depend on how great the product was; if I didn’t think it targeted a new demographic or fulfilled a white space, then I knew it wasn’t for me. I say that to advise you to proceed with caution. Know that once you get your items into a store, the costs don’t stop. You might need to sign up for the same systems the retailer does to transmit purchase orders (POs), and there’s a possibility you will have to pay for any markdowns or any promotions the retailer may run.
PROS: You handle all aspects of your brand from updating your site to cultivating your brand DNA, anyone with access to the internet can become a customer, and lower costs.
CONS: You handle all aspects of your brand from updating your site to cultivating your brand DNA, difficult to garner customers when no one knows who you are.
Brands were turning towards e-commerce for the past few years, but COVID confirmed the importance of having a digital footprint. As stores shut down and many employees were let go, many companies found that their COM sales were still growing. As NRF reported that overall retail sales were down 21.6% from April 2019 to April 2020, COM sales were up 21.2%.
Having a COM business isn’t notably easier. You will need to create a website that is intuitive and lets customers shop easily. Prices should easily be found, and all products should have high-resolution images of the front and back, as well as all the sizes and colors the shirt is available in. Use resources like Google Analytics to do a temperature check on your site after a few months. You’ll need to know how you’re doing in key metrics like sales rate, conversion, and add to cart prices.