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Is This a Good Time to Start a New Fashion Business


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Michael Goodmaker's top tips on starting up a fashion business

When I was starting up my first businesses I never thought about whether it was a good time or not I just did it!

My head was full of dreams, I felt invincible, nothing was going to stop me, I would conquer all!!

I was in an exploding, dynamic, exciting new business called FASHION, everywhere people were interested in looking great and individual. Us consumers had plenty of money in our pockets to spend what we wanted on looking good, not much else to spend it on then. Ah, the good old days!!


Sadly, we all now know that our current situation is very different to the heady old days when money was readily  available to spend on the next fashion ‘big thing'.

We, the customers, the buyers, the end user now have far less money in our pockets. With a recent 20% rise in the cost of petrol, plus the main energy company putting up gas by 20% and electric by 18% I think that new clothing will not be top of my list of needs this year. Will it top your list of things to do??

The supermarkets are doing a very good job supplying our everyday basics. They have style, design input, quality and above all value for money, very hard to turn down when you are short of money.

We've had recessions before and have hopefully learnt from these past difficult times. Starting up successfully in this shrinking market of ours just got a whole lot harder.

Doing thorough market research can help you find demand if there is demand for any new products or suppliers.

Yes, we the buying public would still like to buy but with every established fashion business trying to take our money out of our pockets with deals and discounts what will it take you and your new business to get noticed?


In previous recessions not all of the retail market suffered but those ‘bad times' were caused by different economic pressures than now. This was also before the massive growth of internet sales that have been changing how many of us buy our clothing.

So, who will you target as potential customers of your new business??

When I ask all my start up clients "Who will your customers be" I'm often told the usual top store ‘household names', but will they actually buy from you?

If you do the relevant research you will clearly see that ALL the ‘big fish' retailers and household name stores NEVER buy from start up businesses, it's just too much risk for them.

A few award winning designers do get picked up by some ‘top stores' but that is only available to a small handful of ‘elite' designers. When you take into consideration that 3000 fashion and other creative students leave college/uni in the UK each year, with up to 60% of them choosing to go straight into business for themselves, the selection for these top stores is mind boggling.

In the UK we are ‘blessed' with some fantastic independent fashion stores, boutiques in every city and most big towns across the country, these are your natural retailer targets. For the past couple of years they have been under fire from rising costs, out of town centres and the move towards internet buying, BUT they will try to hang on to their own loyal customers, perhaps with reliable new suppliers like you.

A few years ago I was heavily recommending that start ups investigate an Ebay store site as an alternative or first step towards launching their own website.

Now that we are ALL counting the pennies I think that Ebay and general online shopping will still attract a larger slice of the buying public than traditional retail.

internet shopping

I am still a huge supporter of Ebay, it is still (more or less) start up cost free, just need the product and a digital camera. Still thousands of buyers on the site all the time but many more fashion/designer products available than before. Check it out, research it, see if it is for you.

Finding funding for your start up fashion business has always been difficult and because of the problems in the mortgage market now investment money for start ups just got much harder to find. I've always suggested to my start up clients that they try to find family or friends to invest, this is more relevant now than at any previous time.

If you conduct market research that is relevant and appropriate to your specific business needs you will minimise the risk of losing everything.

Small is ‘beautiful' again in 2008/9, keep your new business small but make it ‘big' on customer service, that will always impress your new customers. Keep your overheads and costs to an absolute minimum, this will give you more flexibility to weather this ‘stormy' period.

If you can get a clear picture of what your customers want from you and then create your products accordingly, this is a much safer option for you. So, I suggest you find an appropriate, achievable target market/audience first and then create designs/products based on their needs.

It is now very risky indeed to create a range in isolation of customer research and then ‘hope' you can then sell it.

In my experience most retail buyers when asked did NOT know what they wanted to buy but they ALL knew what they did NOT want to buy, which is still more information than if you had not asked them.

There are still opportunities for success in the fashion sector but the risks of getting it wrong are now higher than ever before.

Want to discuss your start up ideas with me? Please email me at michael@designerhelp.co.uk

Good Luck

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