From USA-ITA OFF THE CUFF for September 13, 2013
The SOURCING at MAGIC fun is not over yet! On August 20th, Cotton Incorporated hosted a seminar titled “Denim: From the Cotton Fields to the Retail Shelf,” providing MAGIC attendees with expert insight into how to compete in the denim market and take advantage of new cotton and denim trends and technologies.
Mark Messura, Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain at Cotton Incorporated and a familiar face to USA-ITA members, moderated a discussion with some true denim experts: David Earley, Senior Director of Supply Chain Marketing at Cotton Incorporated; Vince Gonzales, an industry veteran who has worked with companies including Ben Sherman, Evisu, Steve McQueen, and more; and Lisa Kline, a successful denim retailer in Los Angeles who is now focusing on her online store, www.lisakline.com.
Denim continues to be one of the most popular fabrics around the world, with denim comprising a whopping 18 percent of all unit sales of apparel, said Messura to open the discussion. With the average consumer owning seven pairs of denim pants by three brands, it’s critical to keep up with cotton and denim trends and technologies.
Gonzales and Kline, two leading denim retail experts, gave some advice on what works (and what doesn’t work) when trying to sell denim. Gonzales, who is now working on launching his own collection called Better In Blue, explained that since customers own so many pairs of denim pants already, it’s important to provide “something extra” and new—such as Japanese selvedge denim, denims in different colors and patterns, or eco-friendly denim, to name just a few examples.
According to Kline, who is credited with putting such brands as Joe’s, Paige, and Hudson on the map, “We live in a denim world.” She provided more insight into how you can rule that world from your retail floor (or website, in her case). Her tips include:
$1· Carry a range of denim pants in the correct styles and sizes for your customer. (This goes back to the idea of knowing your customer and what’s most important to them very well.)
$1· However, don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when it comes to men’s denim, as men are much more open to trying new styles and colors than they used to be.
$1· If you’re going to market yourself as a denim store, you need to have a strong assortment of brands, styles, and sizes. You also need to put effort into your display, and keep back stock, too.
$1· Be patient with your customer, but never let them pull the clothes, because a few wrong tries will frustrate them and you’ll lose a potential sale. On the flip side, when the customer finds a pair that fits perfectly, you’ll often see happy dances in the dressing room!
So, what are the next big things in denim trends and technologies, then? Earley discussed Cotton Inc.’s mission to increase demand for and profitability of cotton through denim innovation. He discussed new technologies like Storm Denim, which is natural, breathable, water-repellent denim that maintains the natural comfort of cotton, as well as Digital Denim, in which the denim finishing is printed onto cotton and much more sustainable because there are no chemicals involved in the finishing. Other trends and technologies to look out for range from fast-dry denim to pearlized denim to, as Kline noted, denim that looks like leather and will be a hot seller this fall. To echo other speakers during the MAGIC seminars, to determine which denim trends and technologies to try, take a close look at your customer’s needs.
If denim interests you and your customer, check out www.CottonUniversity.org, Cotton Inc.’s free educational website chock full of tutorials, webinars, discussion forums, and more.