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Starting Online Fashion Business? Here's how to do it (Part 3)

Now that you have decided where to plant your shop, the next most important item would be the stocks. How much stocks do you carry? Would dropshipping be good for you? How about Just in Time production? Let's look at this one by one:


  1. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is portrayed as a very easy online business model but believe me, it is not. Anyone who thinks dropshipping is about just having a shop and displaying designs to be sold - well, when reality hits, it's going to be tough to swallow. So, now you have opened a store online, say at a very popular market place. Then you go to sites like Ali Express and choose the designs that you want to sell. You download the photos and then upload at your site, set the sizes, price, shipping and lead time before delivery. Then you promote at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all places where you have social presence thinking that your friends would buy. No sales come in and you keep waiting. You try to send Whatsapp messages to your friends and all who know you, may be one or two friends purchase from you out of pity and then sales run dry. You get frustrated. Now, let's look at some of the dropshipping pros and cons:


Pros:

a. You need not carry stocks. Someone else does the production, you market to your channel at a higher price and when there is sales, you place the order at the seller's site or the relevant marketplace for your customer. The seller can deliver directly to your customer. Sales done, you collect a commission. If you are a good seller, you will track the fulfillment of the sale. If you are the type only focused on money, you may not even bother to find out whether the delivery was completed. As a dropshipper you can choose whichever way that suits you. A dropshipper is like a marketing agent. People need to trust you enough to buy from you.


Cons:

a. The designs that you choose to display at your online shop need to be those in season. So you need to do some research before choosing them. You also need to choose designs from dropshippers who can fulfill early. Customers would like delivery within 3 - 7 days. If you look at sites like AliExpress, the sellers do commit up to 60 days delivery. Tell me, who waits for 2 months to get a blouse? Most customers also like free shipping. Free shipping means the least expensive method of shipping, which could be akin to snail mail. So, your fulfillment time is extended to a time frame which is not attractive to customers.


b. You have no control over the production in terms of lead delivery time or quality of the product. Not all sellers listed at Ali Express fulfill according to their stated lead time. Since quality is not under your control, if there are disputes, you may end up losing your own image, rating and perhaps, money as well.


2. Carrying physical stocks

Yes, you can absolutely do this, but do remember, if you are only going to rely on online shop to generate sales for you, carrying physical stocks would not make sense. If you have decided to carry physical stocks, do consider the storage facility. After sometime the quality of the clothes deteriorate. Some may change color, others may have mold in them. So, storage is crucial. Another angle is the need to finish the stocks. If you have online shop and carry physical stocks, do consider joining weekend bazaars to sell off the stocks. So, how does one choose bazaars? Well, folks, that would be another blog post!


Pros:

a. Carrying physical stocks means you can ship out almost immediately, and reduce the waiting time. That would make the customer happy. You could also advise customers on available sizes, colours etc. If you do have customers who want to touch and feel, you could also consider that, of course, keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind.


Cons:

a. The longer the stocks remain in your possession, the lesser your cash flow will be. So ideally, you need to do the pricing of your stocks in such a way that you can run a few sales campaign within the 6 - 12 months that the stock is in your possession. Sometimes, there would be customers who ask for discounts for purchase of more than one item. Do consider. You need the stocks to be sold - so sell them off!


b. Some designs are seasonal. For example if you have stocked up on winter kind of designs, you may only be able to sell them within the three months during pre winter, or the two months during winter. That would be five salary cycles at most.


If you live in equatorial climate and you carry stocks for summer wear, chances are you could sell them throughout the year. However, do ensure that your designs are not time bound, meaning can be worn anytime of the year.


Carrying physical stocks also would mean you have to be in the know about best shipping rates. Some questions that you may want to consider - would you offer free shipping? How about cash on delivery (COD)? Do you know the cheapest shipper? We, at Bollywood Begum often use Pgeon. So far they have been on time within Klang valley as well as throughout Peninsula Malaysia.


3. Just-in-Time


Well, at Bollywood Begum we do this. During each collection we make one sample and do the photo shoot. Photos are uploaded and sales campaign begins. When there are orders from customers, we provide them with two options - choose sizing from existing size chart or we can tailor make according to their measurements. However, we will not consider variations to the design like short sleeve instead of long etc. The design remains, only the measurements can be customized. So, we do not carry stocks, we keep the fabrics ready. This is our J - I - T production.


Pros:

a. Customers can have the design stitched to their measurement and have a better fitting experience.


b. We do not carry stocks of the finished product, which means less urgency to finish the designs. However, that does not mean we are not serious about our business. This way we have built a niche in the market where we have created blue ocean for our business model.


Cons:


a. We commit that the order would be shipped out within 7 days upon payment. That means 7 days, not a day more. Sometimes, when orders pour in we are unable to fulfill the 7 days promise - so we call the customer and inform him/her. So far we have not missed any promise to ship out within 7 days - thank god!


b. Designs are ours, fabrics are also ours (we procure from our own suppliers) so when a design runs out, it runs out because we usually work with special fabrics like hand block printed, or digital designs using vegetable dye. Sometimes we do use synthetic fabrics. But once the fabric runs out at the supplier and if our own stash is exhausted, we no longer can make sale for that design. we have run out on a few such designs, which were our popular ones. The ones you see in the image were among those we sold out early!



Now that you have seen some options in stocks for your online shop, start planning the next step. This is key - payment. How do you accept payment?



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