women standing

How To Get a Clothing Label Recognized by Department Store Buyers

women standing

When it comes to buying mass market products at a reasonable price, many consumers turn to budget retailers like Target or Amazon. For those interested in buying luxury goods, however, department stores continue to be the go-to shopping destination.

Brands that sell accessory and clothing labels have an immense opportunity to gain by selling to department store buyers. In addition to selling alongside coveted brands and luxury designers, department stores can increase the perceived value of a brand, making it easier to command a higher price point.

So if growing your clothing brand is a top priority, here’s how selling upmarket benefits your brand and your bottom line.

Brand Positioning

Selling luxury clothing is nearly impossible without a well-defined brand. To understand what your brand needs to succeed, Jim Snediker of the men’s lifestyle brand Stock MFG. Co., shares three important elements. These include:

  • identifying an initial target market
  • creating a compelling hook
  • telling a powerful story.

When selling to luxury consumers, creating a powerful story is perhaps the most important aspect of branding. That’s because a powerful story can elicit human emotion and make a customer feel more drawn to the meaning behind your product. Gautam Sinha, founder of deluxe leather goods brand Nappa Dori, says that customers “need to feel invested in the product and the story it carries and the experience they have from the time of entering the store to the time they make the purchase.” If a customer isn’t invested in your brand’s story, they’re not likely to shell out a pretty penny for it.

When considering how to move your brand upmarket, Carol Davies of branding agency Fletcher Knight recommends assessing your current brand first. If people already recognize your brand as a reputable and valuable force, it might make sense for you to maintain some of this brand recognition with a new product line. If you’re looking to create a high-end luxury item under a new label, it’s important to disassociate your brand from lower end products.

Most high end brands differentiate themselves from mass market brands through high quality imagery and powerful storytelling, according to fashion and tech reporter Hilary Milnes. Establishing your brand as a luxury label using these techniques can help you attract attention of department store buyers.

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Establishing a Lifestyle

A key part of luxury brand positioning is establishing a certain lifestyle. Kylie Ora Lobell at Creator says that in the luxury marketplace, brands are selling an aspirational lifestyle. Whether its people who love to travel, stay healthy or simply celebrate life, all aspects of your brand need to communicate those ideals. Think about it this way: You want your customers to envision how your product enhances their lives and helps them reach their goals.

Social media is a great way to help establish and sell your label’s lifestyle. When choosing and curating these channels, digital media agency Graphic Alliance writes that it’s important to be selective. This means that instead of going over the top with imagery on every social platform, you should stick to just one or two medias. Tapping into the channels where your customers are most engaged and inspired allows you to have the greatest influence.

Creating Value

To sell a luxury item successfully, it’s important to understand how perceived value and worth relates to apparel items.

As explained by Cheryl Snapp Conner, founder of SnappConner PR, items perceived to be scarce are also seen as more valuable. Meaning, if your product is rare and hard to get, people will demand it more.

Creating limited edition collections, for example, can make a certain set of apparel designs feel finite. This creates a sense of urgency that compels people to buy. Lauren Sherman, editor at Business of Fashion, uses the example of a Hermés Birkin Bag to get this point across. Since they were first released over three decades ago, Birkin Bags have remained some of the most coveted handbags in the world. While the handbags are high quality – each made by hand by a single craftsman – it is their scarcity that has kept them popular.

To buy a Birkin Bag, a customer must have a relationship with a Hermés sales associate. As Sherman puts it, “to be sold a Birkin, you have to have bought one already.” Bags are released sporadically, and those who want one are put on a waitlist, which can sometimes last six months. By making it difficult to obtain a Birkin Bag, Hermés is able to drive high demand among luxury shoppers.

To create scarcity with your new label, marketing coach Vinil Ramdev offers a few tips. First, limit your channels of distribution. By selling only on your website, or only in a certain pop up shop, you can create a brand that feels rare and unique. Secondly, limit your production lines each season. Having a finite amount of product attracts consumers because they only have a small window of opportunity to obtain them.

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Expanding Luxury Appeal

Many of today’s leading luxury brands are looking to blend retail experiences with cutting edge technology. Creative agency Sideshow suggests using interactive retail stands to establish stronger customer experiences. These in-store stands are equipped with motion-activated screens, which provide information about products on the shelves. Similar stands can also be used to collect information about a customer’s preferences (such as which product they looked at) by tracking movement through smartphone frequencies.

This reflects a growing trend towards technology-driven retail experiences, which are becoming more popular in department stores. Brands that can show their interest in and commitment to technology may be more appealing to department stores because it shows that they’re willing to embrace new trends.

Diversifying Product Lines

Creating new collections and expanding product offerings is an important way to keep your brand fresh and relevant. Kelsey Lindsey at Retail Dive writes that by making new items available, both in-store and online, brands can attract a wider audience base. For brands with high-end customers, this is an especially important way to continue commanding a high price point. One way to diversify a product line – and grab the attention of department stores and luxury buyers – is to take advantage of trending events.

Fashionista west coast editor Dhani Mau points out that many brands have been using this strategy to capitalize on the buzz around Coachella. The music festival has become known for its fashionable guests, and many of the year’s top fashions are seen there. Brands are getting in on the buzz by creating festival collections and hosting specialty in-store events during the weeks leading up to the concert. This helps a brand become associated with Coachella’s fashion-forward audience, which includes celebrities and Hollywood icons.

Brand Partnerships

Associating your brand with another designer or store can have a similar effect. Osman Ahmed at Business of Fashion explains that partnering with another luxury brand can help attract that brand’s audience. Such a partnership can also help establish cultural relevance, which gives your brand lasting power.

When co-branding with another luxury brand, don’t be afraid that they’ll outshine you. According to Promo Marketing Magazine, having your logo appear next to a luxury brand on product packaging and marketing materials lends authenticity and value to your product.

Images by: StockSnap