(Disclaimer: this post is my rambling thoughts and slight freak outs as a budding business woman. I’ve talked most of this to death with dear old hubby, but he really can’t help with fabric decisions and clothing ideas, etc. Feel free to skip if you aren’t interested, but no sharp sticks, y’all. If you have something to share, good or bad, I am all ears, but be kind.)
As a trained scientist, everything I do revolves around using the scientific method. You would be surprised at how globally helpful it can be when faced with questions that need to be answered, especially when there are way to many variables and permutations in play.
Have I lost your attention yet?
See, what this post pertains to is how do you decide why something is not selling, and when is it time to try something new?
Here’s an example. When stocking premade items for my pop up shop at the market I have to make decisions on:
1) what type of garment to make – a dress? Onesie? Pajamas?
2) What size(s) to make? 2T, 6 months, 8 years?
3) What fabric(s) to use and it what combinations?
So, by the time I have a finished product to hang on my rack I have made many, many decisions that could be the “wrong ones.”
What if no one wants a 6 months size?
What if no one wants Ninja Fabric?
What if no on wants to buy handmade pajamas?
All of these questions must be answered, quite arbitrarily, before production of anything can begin. And, before even that, sometimes. especially with wholesale accounts.
As a small business owner I have the ability to buy fabric by the bolt at a discounted rate. This is quite beneficial, because the profit margin on handmade items is quite small. There aren’t that many people who aren’t craftspeople themselves who understand the work that goes into making “something outta nuthin.'” So, buying fabric at wholesale helps bump the profit margin a little closer to “OK.” I’m not complaining, I love what I do, but I still need to put food on the table.
Soooooooooooooooooooo, how do you decide what fabrics to buy???
Here are my observations and thoughts so far:
1) I based by biz model around providing handmade clothing for children using only GOTS certified organic fabric, which means this is all I can/want to buy
2) GOTS (and really any organic) fabrics carry a higher price tag, due to the extra costs to produce the fabric
3) Lillestoff is, by far, my fave company for such fabrics since not only do they provide GOTS certification, but the have such amazing prints.
4) People swarm to buy Lillestoff yardage to make their own garments, but pre-made items on my shelves are not really going anywhere fast.
QUESTION #1: Do people want to buy clothing made with Lillestoff (and and similar) fabrics, or do they just want to buy the fabric?
TEST: Offer a small amount of Lillestoff fabric for sale to see if it sells faster or slower than the clothing.
# of garments sold using Lillestoff fabrics, on average, per month: 5
# of Lillestoff fabric purchases in a 48 hour period: 5
I know this is not a very good controlled test, but I sold the same amount of units of Lillestoff fabric in 48 hours as I average handmade clothing in a month.
DO PEOPLE WANT TO BUY HANDMADE CLOTHING MADE WITH LILLESTOFF FABRIC?
DO THEY REALLY ONLY WANT TO BUY THE FABRIC?
WHY WOULD SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO BUY THE FABRIC TO MAKE THEIR OWN, BUT NOBODY WHO DOESN’T SEW LIKES IT?
This last question makes no sense to me. If there are so many seamstresses out there that love the stuff so much than NO ONE can keep Lillestoff fabric is stock for very long, then why aren’t there more people who want to buy the finished product? I can only imagine that they must not think my handmade items are worth the price, but I know that I should be charging more.
I recently discovered that both Monaluna Fabrics and Birch Fabrics are GOTS certified. I knew they were organic, but I was unaware they were also GOTS certified. So, I bought a smattering of some of these fabrics (all very difficult to come by, since they are all sold out or mostly sold out) to see if making some items with more subdued fabrics would be more appealing. Is it that fabric choice, or something else, was the idea. Change one variable and test.
I stitched up some onesies in Birch Chevrons and the ooohing and aaahing and squealing began. Everybody raved about them! Everybody loved them! But, no on bought them (yet). Now, I just made them and they have only been at the market once, and we all know an N of 1 means nothing (another science reference, sorry). But, it at least seems on gauging the reactions and interest in the clothing made with Lillestoff versus Birch, Birch was the clear winner.
Which brings me to the next slew of entangled questions, concerns, and issues.
DO I NEED TO MAKE A SWITCH FROM LILLESTOFF STYLE FABRIC TO MONALUNA/BIRCH STYLE FABRIC?
DO I NEED TO STOP MAKING CLOTHING AND SELL FABRIC INSTEAD (OR IN ADDITION)?
I had soooooo many people ask me where I got my fabrics from, since the only fabric store we have in Knoxville In Jo-Ann’s.
SHOULD I SELL OFF MY LILLESTOFF INVENTORY AND/OR BECOME A LILLESTOFF RETAILER?
MAYBE I SHOULD JUST OPEN A LOCAL ORGANIC ONLY FABRIC STORE AND STOCK KNITS AND WOVENS?
My hubby tells me I am in panic mode and I need to wait and see and it’s too early to tell about anything. While I do agree with all these statements, I have officially been in business 6 months, so I would think I should have some information to base decisions upon. I do have some, but not enough for me to comfortably make any decisions.
Monaluna’s gorgeous knits are back ordered until January, so I can’t even buy any. Birch Fabrics ever popular Elk Grove and Just for Fun Collections are still available (some about to be off of back order), but are they “sooooo last season?”
Birch and Monaluna are also coming out with new fabric collections in September, but how do I decide which, if any to buy? I was so sure that Lillestoff would be a hit, now my confidence (and bank account) is low and I am struggling to see what the next step should be.
Should I buy more of the older Birch collections? Should I wait and buy some of the newer collections? If so, which ones? What about Lillestoff? Is it a dead end for garment construction, but a cash highway for selling yardage? Should I “stop panicking” and do nothing?
what would YOU do??
If anyone can offer some sound advice I will offer you your choice of a piece of fabric. And, if your advice is to wait and see, give me a solid reason. I know it’s my hubby stance, but he will wait and see if the laundry will fold itself, so I am not sure I trust him on this one.
(PS: I’m terrified to hit publish on this post, but I’m gonna do it anyway)