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Draw up a battle plan for the export market

If you’re serious about developing your brand, exporting is easily this season’s hottest move. With sterling in its current weak state, there are plenty of opportunities for fashion brands to grow their business in other markets such as Europe or the US. But without some clear guidelines, it can be a minefield.

First, you need to make sure you have a clear strategy in place. Make sure you’ve spent enough time in planning, preparation and training to get the implementation right. Have a thorough checklist of what is to be done and what can be expected. Make sure you get outside help; surround yourself with people with field experience who can provide sound advice.

Preparation is vital; you must understand what the new market requires and what will trigger agents and buyers to take on your brand. You must know how to invoice, ship and collect money.

Take a holistic approach. This means having the knowledge in-house or from outside partners or consultants to handle everything from design through to credit management, both in the UK and in the countries to which you are exporting.

Can you control and anticipate risk? Many suppliers will commit to giving you a quality product on time, but how many actually deliver? You must factor in lead times because buyers need hard work from you to build trust. If the goods arrive late, you may have to grant a 5% to 40% discount. Even worse, the buyer may decide not to take the goods. Make sure you have a plan to collect money, as it can’t be dealt with after the goods have been shipped.

Invest in training. None of us can afford to miss an opportunity. Fashion brands need to keep up with new rules, new techniques and new skills.

  • -      Thierry Bayle is founder of consultancy Global Fashion Management

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