Fashion entrepreneurship has many branches to it. There are fashion designers, fashion retailers, fashion illustrators and so many more. Each of these people plays their own unique roles in the fashion industry.
For those who wish to venture into the sale of fashion items without being fashion designers, fashion retailing is the best option.
This week, we spoke with Udeme Jalekun of Kadeshcloset and Kemi Ola of Kemmywardrobe on fashion retailing in Nigeria and what it entails.
Mrs Udeme Jalekun is a Fashionpreneur and the CEO of Kadeshcloset, an online fashion retailing store that deals in the sale of fashion items like shoes, bags, clothes and jewellery. She is also a Software Tester at an IT firm in Lagos and a twin mum.
For her, fashion retailing “involves the entire process that preceded acquiring the fashion product until after it has been sold.” It is a holistic approach. It involves the process of acquiring or manufacturing the product/service to marketing and sales and also to the activities that happen post-sale like feedback collection, reviews, follow up, and so on.
In simple words, fashion retailing involves the acquisition and sale of fashion items to the end-user.
Ms Kemi Ola is the CEO of Kemmywardrobe, a fashion retail brand that focuses on the sale of bags, shoes, makeup brushes, and more. The brand was born out of the desire to take the stress of importing items individually from abroad and going to the market off ladies. It is a brand that focuses on saving money and time for the modern-day woman.
To her, fashion retailing is “taking the stress off individuals by bringing fashion items to their doorstep while still making a profit.”
Steps in Starting a Fashion Retailing Business in Nigeria.
1. Find your Niche
Before you start your fashion retailing business, there are certain questions you need to ask yourself. Questions that will form the basis of your business and help you identify your market. These questions include;
What problem am I trying to solve? What do I want to sell? Who are the people I want to sell to?
Answering these questions will help you carve a niche for yourself in the fashion industry so you do not become someone that sells all things and anything.
2. Make Plans
This step involves making plans that concern the business both long term and short term. In this stage, you can write your business plan, which doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, find ways to separate company funds from personal funds, and so on.
In this stage you also need to ask certain questions like; Where/how do I intend to get suppliers? What channels will I need to explore to reach my target market? How can I get the required funds to start my business? What knowledge/skills do I need to excel in this trade? Who do I have in my network? What are my projections for the business?
As you get answers to all these questions you need to write them down because they will determine to a great extent how your business would be run.
3. Get a Unique Selling Point (USP)
There are many fashion retailers in the industry so you have to identify what makes your brand unique. You need to figure out that thing that will bring customers to you as opposed to your competitors. Ask yourself;
What do I have that other brands do not have? What can I offer my customers to make them prefer me over other brands? What can I give to make my brand unique?
These questions will help you figure out what makes your brand the brand to patronise.
4. Carry out a Survey
Understanding your clients and their needs is an important part of doing business. One of the ways to do this before launching your fashion retailing brand is to carry out a market survey.
You need to ask questions that will give you insight as to how your customers think and what they will like to see in the market.
A survey is very important. – Kemi Ola.
5. Put your Plan into Action
The final stage is to put all the information you have gathered together and develop your unique brand. In starting your brand, contrary to what some fashion entrepreneurs think, you do not have to start big.
Start from where you are, from your network of friends, colleagues, and neighbours. You do not need to gather all the funds or have a huge follower base on social media. If you offer value, you will keep getting referrals. People gravitate towards value. – Udeme Jalekun.
Once you have most of these questions answered you will have clarity on what you want to achieve and a clue on to how to start. Depending on your answers you can start almost immediately with whatever capital you have or you can wait a bit longer.
Difficulties in Fashion Retailing and How to Overcome Them
In handling your fashion retailing business, certain difficulties might arise, these include;
Sometimes, raising sufficient capital to make bulk purchases and widen your product options might be hard. This is why you have to plan long term, from the beginning, on where you intend to get funds for your fashion retailing business from.
To overcome the challenge of getting funds for expansion after you have gotten into the business, you can keep reinvesting revenue gotten from the business back into it. Also, getting a loan can help give your business the boost it needs to move forward.
2. Unstable Exchange Rates
For those that choose to use foreign suppliers and import goods from outside of Nigeria, unstable exchange rates can be an issue. The rise and fall of the value of the dollar to the naira can pose serious threats to your business growth as it indirectly affects the cost of shipping goods and the prices of your fashion items.
3. Getting Good Quality Items at Affordable Prices
The importance of doing your homework and taking the pain to look for good quality products cannot be overstated. After finding these good quality products though, sometimes they will come at prices that are way out of your budget.
The most effective way to overcome this challenge is to ask questions and do your research. Ask questions from those that have gone ahead of you on where to get affordable good quality products from. So, there is a place of learning, networking and doing your homework.
In working with customers, some of the difficulties you might face are;
4. Getting the Right Sizes
For every shoe, there are 2 sizes – big and small. Some customers do not know what size they are and this can pose a challenge when sending items to them.
To overcome this challenge, you can ask them to use a ruler or tape measure to get the length of their feet so you know what size they are.
5. Getting Customers to Trust you
This challenge is one that many new fashion retailers will face. Some people will be sceptical about patronising your brand at first even when there are customer reviews on your social media pages. This can be a difficult hurdle to cross but it is crossable.
Overcoming this hurdle will mean convincing these prospects through word of mouth and reassuring them about the authenticity of your brand.
Advantages of Fashion Retailing
Getting satisfaction from doing something you love and enjoy doing is one of the advantages of fashion retailing. Turning a passion into a source of income is one thing that can never get old.
Pre- NYSC, I was under the tutelage of my sister, the CEO of e1clothingng, where I learnt to sew clothes and understand fabrics and combination. I loved checking out the latest designs and fashion trends (before my affection tilted slightly to software testing). So a major advantage for me is that I still get to enjoy checking trends and offering affordable trendy options to people. – Udeme Jalekun.
2. Networking Opportunities
Networking is a must for every fashion entrepreneur. Through fashion retailing, you get the opportunity to network with different people from different works of life.
3. Extra Source of Income
Fashion retailing offers you the opportunity to have an extra source of income asides your 9-5 job. The salary you pay yourself from the profits of your business sales become a new income source to you.
Ways to Get Suppliers
Getting suppliers for your fashion retailing business depends on you, the niche you wish to venture into and the amount of capital you have at hand.
Your suppliers can be locally sourced or you can import directly from other countries like the UK, Turkey, Malaysia, China, and so on. Whichever way you choose is dependent on you and the type of fashion items you wish to sell.
If you intend to import items, I strongly recommend that you enrol in a good importation class where you can learn from people who already trade in different things. These people can answer questions, guide you and also provide you with suppliers contact details. – Udeme Jalekun.
There are wholesale groups and local suppliers that offer drop shipping options also. All you need do is look out for such groups and enrol in classes that teach importation if you wish to deal in foreign items.
If you wish to use local suppliers, there are a lot of Nigerian clothing brands in the country where you can get almost any grade of items from depending on what you wish to focus on.
Ways to Achieve Customer Satisfaction While Still Turning a Profit
Conducting a market survey or research is an important step when it comes to getting the right prices for your fashion items. You need to do this to understand how much your customers will be willing to spend on certain items. This will, in turn, inform your decision on how much to sell these items to them for, depending on the amount you used to buy them.
First, a market survey is key, this will help you know what the price range is and you can quote accordingly, depending on the cost price. – Kemi Ola.
But in pricing right, you need to realise and remember that entrepreneurship is about serving others and proffering a solution to a problem you have seen in society. Do not focus only on making a profit, but also on making your customers happy.
Not all my transactions with customers are about profit-making and my real customers know this. I am more concerned with people getting what they like at a comfortable price. – Udeme Jalekun.
Sometimes, also, giving discounts to customers who buy multiple items from you is one way to achieve customer satisfaction.
Udeme Jalekun said, “There is a market for everyone. You just need to find yours and explore it.”
Kemi Ola said, “You can do it, start now!”