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Sunday, August 26, 2007

China Quality Problems and their Lesson for Alterations Boutiques

I want to state outfront I am not a party to bashing China for its export quality problems of late. However, these issues provide some lessons for US independent apparel designers and retailers.

Despite China's great need for development and implementation of quality standards and regulations quality is not something to be injected at the end of a process.

In recent years major apparel retailers have done away with backroom alterations departments choosing instead to "outsource" these duties to independent alterations boutiques. It is these boutiques who took on the task (and economic opportunity) of injecting quality into a product which, had it been tested before it left the factory, would have failed the quality test. The market will sustain neither designers nor retailers who compromise quality for productivity and sales.

I contend quality problems are related to lack of, or, inferior training.

You can not shortcut the training process with assumptions a trainee knows what is expected in your operation.
Training in method is best followed up with the voice of experience to provide valuable advice and tips on improving flow.
A well-learned process results in quality with productivity yield increases as familiarity becomes second nature for process operators.
Further, I find too many independent retailers assume they cannot compete against low-price imports. The assumption is that since these sell as big as they do through Walmart and the like consumers neither care nor pay for quality. Wrong. Consumers buy what mega corporations decide will turn the biggest profit FOR THE CORPORATION, not the consumer. Corporations then proceed to squeeze out their competition by flooding the market with their low-price imports. If corporations were to decide they would sell high-price quality-only items and proceeded to market their quality-only message to the consumer they would soon squeeze out their low-quality competitors. The reality of corporate decisions is that when it comes to sales a wider, diverse target market is preferred to a small, exclusive one. Hence, for mega corporations, low-price holds the greater promise for bigger profits.

Finally, too many independent retailers want to play like the major retailers. They shop their goods at merchandisers (whose goods are low-price imports they rachet-up for resellers, typically) buying bulk quantities their boutiques cannot handle tying up precious large sums of capital.

Quality control is not a subsitute for inability or unwillingness to teach quality to those who would enable you to grow your business.

The solution to quality and supply issues in apparel is not China size. It's small, local independent contractor, or designer, networks which supply quality apparel for local independent apparel retailers.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Making enough money

A friend enquired after church wanting to know about my apparel business. After hearing my tale and with a bit of bewilderment in her face she confided. Seems she is quite talented in terms of making apparel as well as purses (or handbag, forgive me ladies, but I won't profess to know the difference).
She does not do it out of need, but simply because she can and is able to immerse herself in the creative garden of her imagination.
It's the reality that intimidates her.
"I'm not sure that I could make enough money to make a living at it" she says.
Therein lies a vastness of doubt and aloneness, not that my friend is a person of doubt or aloneness, but that there are so many people with similar talent as her, and,_ doubt.
True. It's the exceptional person who can go at it alone, with doubts and all, and come out doing quite well for themselves financially.
Herein is the good sense of Independent Contractor Networks. Although I have been told lately "designer" is actually the more accurate word than "contractor" either way I am talking about:
An individual who makes apparel in
their home either by themselves or
with someone else for a retailer.
When one or both of them are in the Network they are in business for themselves, but not by themselves. How can you put a price tag on being in an environment and part of a Network where you interact, share coffee or a meal and exchange ideas and business projects with designers and retailers?
PLEASE! Do not misunderstand the IC-Network model. It's not just a social club of apparel makers. IC-Networks extend to many other areas including computer builders, satellite dish installers and more. This is a Network that generates income for you in addition to what you yourself make personally with your own hands.
What you need to decide for yourself is how important it is to you and your family that you find and take advantage of the means that will make enough for you to make a living. . .and then some.
Thought of the day shared with a friend: Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

IC-Networks: Your private enterprise

Dell's recent wise decision to revisit the retail experience in partnership with Walmart may revive an old flame for the company.

Dell has yet to announce a return to its white-box sales experience. Where might Dell find a suitable partner for such a return?

The answer is much more widespread and abundant than all Walmart stores and employees combined. The suitable partner for Dell's return

to the white-box sales experience is through the smaller, unentangling partnership of Independent Contractor Networks.

A colossus like Walmart is impressive, but a nationwide IC-Network of technicians, engineers and computer savy individuals is

far more diverse and widespread.

While it may be true many people who dream of their own business never do it the low investment costs of a white-box

enterprise that puts computers in the hands of the US low income population segment is a huge gain for Dell, America and private enterprise.

This is at-home/small white-box business support and a revenue maker for Dell.

Dell, more than any other computer manufacturer is best equipped, qualified and stands to gain more (and quicker) than its

competitors; not in the conventional retail sales model, but through IC-Networks.