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July 29, 2021

How To Sell To Luxury Buyers: Getting A Foot In The Luxury Door

By: Peter Gregory

After a tough year in 2020, luxury is back with a vengeance

Recent data shows that the UK’s luxury fashion sector is on track to grow by a whopping 13% in 2021 alone (source: Statistica). It’s a lucrative market, but it can be hard to break in … especially if you’re a new clothing business. 

Here at GB Labels, we’ve watched countless clothing businesses go from the kitchen table to the catwalk over the years. The clothing businesses that have gone on to conquer the luxury market all have a few things in common: a relentless commitment to quality, a canny approach to branding and distribution and a very determined attitude! 

In this guide, we’ll show you how you can tweak your brand, business model and product line so that you can compete at the highest end of the fashion market. 

Offer A Luxury Product

The luxury goods sector is a very demanding marketplace. It might sound obvious, but to impress a luxury buyer, your clothes need to be truly exceptional. 

You’re fighting for the attention of a very small number of very lucrative consumers. If the product you’re making isn’t something truly unique and luxurious, then you need to stop and reconsider what you’re doing. You can either go back to the drawing board and improve the product, or you can consider selling to other markets. 

The core of a great luxury clothing product lies in its design. The feel, fit and function of the garment needs to be exceptional. You’re aiming for perfection, so redraft your design obsessively. Fuss over every aspect of the garment, from trim to textile choice. Test it out on real-life people wherever you get the opportunity (friends and family are a great test market!)

The concept of ‘luxury’ doesn’t stop at the garment itself — it’s also about what you can offer your buyers before and after they buy. 

  • Exclusivity is a great way to add value to an item of clothing. If the luxury buyer can see that what you’re selling is part of a special limited run, they’re much more likely to forgive the price. We’ve written a beginner’s guide to limited editions which is worth a read if you’d like to learn more.
  • After-care is another important part of the luxury experience. As a rule of thumb, you need to be able to offer buyers first-rate customer care and an exceptional guarantee. For instance, the Tilley company in Canada offers a Guarantee for Life on all of its hats. If you own a Tilley hat and it starts to fall apart due to normal wear and tear or poor workmanship, you can send it back and Tilley will repair or replace it free of charge (source).  
  • Packaging is a defining part of the luxury buyer’s experience. Everywhere you look in the luxury goods industry, there’s an expectation that the packaging will be beautiful. Dyson’s luxurious hair dryers come in hard-wearing mock leather packaging that doubles as a stylish long-term storage solution (source). Jo Malone’s signature bow has become so popular that there are online tutorials on how to tie it. You need to step up your packaging game to compete in this arena (…perhaps with some custom woven ribbon from GB Labels!)

Get Your Brand Right

You can have the most luxurious products in the world, but if your brand doesn’t feel luxurious, then you’ll find it much harder to break into the industry.

Design is important. Remember that fashion buyers are going to look at your website and email signature long before they actually hold your product in their hands. Invest in your brand: everything about your business, from the font you use on your emails to the logo you put on your website, needs to give off a premium vibe.

Invest in your brand story, too. Why did you set up this company? What challenges did you face? Where do your materials come from and how do you make your product? Write it all down — it’s all a vital part of what makes a luxury brand. When a buyer holds your garment in their hands, they need to appreciate the materials, the craftsmanship and the unique origin story behind the product. It’s a vital part of the luxury sales pitch. 

As soon as you have your brand story and design ‘locked down’ in your mind, it’s time to move on to your labelling strategy! A luxury label should be strong and distinctive. It should complement the central promise of your product, and act as a seal of approval on everything you sell. There’s a virtually limitless combination of textures, sheens, shapes and colours to choose from.  That’s what we’re here to help with at GB Labels! Get a free pack of sample labels from our site, then give us a call when it arrives through the post. We’re very happy to share our experience.

Sell In The Right Places

If you want to create a sense of exclusivity around your brand, then you have to pick and choose your distribution network carefully. It feels wrong to say no to any shop that wants to sell your designs — especially at the start of your business journey — but it’s the price you pay for creating an exclusive product. 

Just remember that luxury is a sliding scale. You get to decide just how exclusive and upmarket you go. Here are some of the ‘pools’ of luxury buyer that you can pitch to:

  • Top-Tier Premium Retailers: Shops like Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty are some of the most well-known shops on earth. If you can get your goods in one of these outlets, you’ll start out with a pedigree that other startups just can’t touch. If you want to get a meeting with the buyer department in any of these premium retailers, you need to show that what you’re selling is high quality, truly unique and not for sale elsewhere. It’s equally important that you have a good brand story. 
  • Local & Online Luxury Boutiques: If these top-tier destinations don’t feel quite right for your brand, then there are plenty of other opportunities in the luxury sector. A handful of online retailers (Net-A-Porter and Farfetch, for example) are well-known for their luxury offering. Small boutiques in affluent towns are also worth a look. There’s plenty of business to be done by dealing with these ‘best in town’ retailers.
  • Non-Fashion Retail: The most important part of a luxury marketing strategy is that you get your product in front of luxury buyers. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to think laterally about the retailers you work with. Some of the UK’s best farm shops (Daylesford, for example) attract a lot of high net worth shoppers. The same goes for the retail arms of long-established newspapers and magazines like The Spectator and The New Yorker. Luxury hotel chains and cruise lines may be worth pitching to as well. 
  • Direct Sales: You can sell luxury garments yourself, either through pop-up shops, online or a blend of both. Online, you must make sure that your website’s browsing and buying experience is  smooth. Photography should be ultra-professional, and customer service & fulfilment processes have to be second-to-none. Offline, at the very least you’ll need card readers, a smart gazebo, racking and a calendar of events. Events like Goodwood Revival are great options for pop-up luxury brands looking to win exposure and sales at the same time (source). You’ll have to pay a hefty pitch fee and there’s plenty of paperwork to contend with (Public Liability Insurance, Risk Assessments and so on), but it puts your brand squarely in front of the right kind of buyer. 

Stick with it!  

Be warned: the journey to the top of the luxury market is never a smooth one. You’re in a highly competitive industry, with fewer buyers to pitch to. The more selective you are about who you sell to, the harder you have to work for every sale. 

 If you have faith in the quality of your goods, and if you can get your product design, marketing and sales strategy right, then you can make a dent in the luxury industry. Good luck!

Thanks for reading!

Pete

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