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Live the 80:20 rule to prioritise resources

Most companies are aware of the 80:20 rule: the theory being that 80% of their business comes from only 20% of their customers.

Most companies are aware of the 80:20 rule: the theory being that 80% of their business comes from only 20% of their customers. With the selling season well under way, fashion and textile suppliers need to concentrate their time and effort on those customers and activities that will bring in the 80% of their business.

But all too often, another 80:20 rule kicks in. Most of us are probably spending 80% of our time on tasks that should have been delegated, or not even attempted, at the expense of things that are important.

The design, manufacture and delivery of the new season’s collection are important but so too is customer communication. Customer retention is always better than chasing new accounts, but you need the latter in order to grow, and a good communication campaign can pay dividends. Print and paper advertising, email campaigns, a new lookbook, direct mail (yes, don’t just use email), social media, PR and, of course, exhibition participation, should be part of the mix. Businesses built in a recession are often those that perform best when the good times return. Now is the time for suppliers to make customers feel special and provide the extra help some may need.

Business habits also change in times of crisis and this creates opportunities. Think about those retail buyers who turned you down, one, two or even three seasons ago. But don’t take a “no” then as a “never”. Update them on what you are doing now.

Someone, somewhere will always be doing well. Retail sales may be suffering but there’s a boom in online business. The Greeks may not be flush with cash but the Americans are still looking to buy if the product fits and you approach them in the right way. The 80:20 rule should help us all to prioritise our time and resources.

  • Paul Alger is director of international affairs at the UK Fashion & Textile Association

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