How to Price your Fashion Products: A Conversation with Louise Weigall
I first met Louise when I attended her workshop in Sydney about pricing your fashion brand for retail and wholesale. With fashion clients on our books, I wanted to understand a little more about the process behind the production from an industry expert who has worked with big name brands like Country Road - how would their pricing strategies differ from the boutique brands I was working with?
I loved the session, and thought it would be worthwhile bringing a little of Louise’s expertise to you! So without further ado:
CD: Hi Louise! Fill us in, who are you and what do you do?
LW: I’m a production and technical design consultant for design lead fashion and accessory businesses.
I help business owners creating their own product, set strong foundations for pricing, planning and production so they can avoid expensive mistakes, save time and increase profit.
CD: How did you get into the fashion industry?
LW: I got my start as a design assistant at Country Road head office after already working in Visual Merchandising in Sydney for 5 years. I moved from Sydney in my mid 20’s to study Textile Design at RMIT and majored in Industrial Knitting, which surprised me, as I thought I was going to major in Print design.
I was in the homewares VM team straight after uni and made a point of finding out who the decision makers were in the womenswear team at head office so I could transfer to product. I did my best to get an interview with the right people and then a position became available. One of the key women who helped orchestrate an interview, ended up being my boss and is still a good friend today.
I stayed with Country Road for 5 years, and the experience really set the foundations for my knowledge around systems and standards, fabrics and yarns, price, and timelines.
But it was the move to small business after Country Road that really opened my eyes.
I had the chance to wear lots of hats and be involved with the process from design concept to delivery, and I loved it. I got to work with a mix of clients, and have a more direct relationship with the factories in China, including travel to the factories, as well as buying and sourcing trips to Europe, London and the U.S.
CD: Why did you decide to kick off your workshops with a session on pricing?
LW: I know how easy it is to be seduced by the shiny beautiful things, but making and selling clothes on a commercial scale is a business. I can’t bear to see creative talented people put in big efforts with design only to lose out on the financial reward in the long term. I wanted to help empower small designers with the skillset and knowledge used in industry so they felt more confident in pricing their product.
Creating product with a price in mind from the beginning helps shape the design to be profitable from the outset, rather than putting time and energy into something that will look amazing but not make enough money to keep going.
CD: What lessons do you think small businesses and start ups can learn from the bigger names in fashion?
LW: Be disciplined in making commercial decisions. By commercial, I mean providing your customer with what they want, not what you think they want. This affects everything from the designs, materials, to prices and fits.
It doesn’t mean sacrificing your designs, but finding the sweet spot where your creativity can meet the marketplace at a price that works for both of you.
Update the best sellers from season to season. If something is working keep it going, but with a minor tweak.
Creating product is a deadline driven process, with critical dates to be met in order for the next stage to proceed. Creating timelines, templates and systems that help you know where everything is at is crucial. It minimises the risks of late delivery and puts structure to a process where many parties are involved so there can be accountability.
CD: Why is pricing your product correctly so important?
LW: In the manufacturing world, for better or worse, there’s a direct link between price and quantity. And that link can affect the end price on the shop floor, because volume mostly helps the price come down at a factory level.
The price of your product determines how many of those items you need to sell in order to reach your target revenue. It determines what part of the market you’re going to play in too; eg; mainstream or boutique. In simple terms for example, if you wanted to reach $10,000 revenue. You could sell 20 items at $500 or 40 items at $250.
With a higher priced item the percentage of the selling price is greater. However, the level of discernment and expectation on the value of the product at a higher price is greater. And that’s where the perception of the brand plays a big role.
I’m not an expert on the psychology of buying, other than my own personal experience of what I’m drawn to.
I know I have higher expectations on design difference, workmanship, uniqueness of fabric and cleverness of styling if I’m paying more.
CD: Do you think people are willing to pay a premium price, and what is influencing that decision? E.g. Made in Australia, hand designed?
LW: There’s such a mix of reasons as to why someone will pay a premium. Everything from our feelings on the day, to aspirations or perceived expectations on quality and brand love and increasingly our values…….not to mention having the money too.
I don’t believe hand-made alone is enough of a reason to want to pay a premium price. Unfortunately ‘hand-made’ is somewhat of a misnomer, as all woven garments are effectively hand made. They’re made by hand on sewing machines in factories. And shoes have a very hands-on process too, as a standard practise. So if you think about it, the majority of our clothes and shoes are hand made. It’s only recently it’s been given a marketing spin in line with the sustainable movement.
I think a better way of defining premium is based on where it’s made, the grade of materials used, the skill level of the people creating it and the technical aspects that go into making it.
CD: What do the general public not understand about product pricing?
There’s definitely a misunderstanding on materials, especially natural raw materials; what goes into processing them and how readily available they are, whether it’s the finest grade, or common grade. But there’s also a lack of knowledge or insight on what’s involved behind the scenes.
Making clothes or homewares is a very labour-intensive industry and an expensive business from the point of view of inventory and overheads. Don’t forget, retail to date, has also been about real estate, but that’s already changing and will continue to do so dramatically.
CD: How can people get in contact with you or learn more about what you do?
I have a monthly blog design interview series that’s a long form interview to really help other designers or small business owners learn about industry insights around the process behind the product.
I’ll also be continuing with workshops in Production, pricing and planning in 2019. Or people can reach me via email on firstname.lastname@example.org , and the usual places online.
LinkedIn: Louise Weigall