Womens apparel industry was made up of small, family-oriented businesses. This began to change at the end of the 1960s. The ownership of apparel manufacturing businesses by such conglomerates as Gulf and Western became economically desirable. These changes necessarily brought some restrictive measures to an industry noted for its flamboyant methods of operation. While it is still possible to respond quickly to changing demands in fashion, more planning is now involved.
As the apparel industry moves into the pattern of big business, it cannot contract or expand its facilities at a moments notice. Starting an apparel business with minimum capital in hopes that a particular item will catch on and skyrocket into the fashion success story of the year is today the exception, not the rule. Although the advent of mergers has affected the womens apparel industry, certain aspects of operation remain the same.
Firms within the industry are highly specialized in terms of their production. Not all producers of apparel actually perform all the processes necessary to turn out the finished garments. And the new lines, or assortments of styles, are developed for each selling season of the year.
Types of producers
The fashion apparel industry consists of three types of producers: manufacturers, jobbers, and contractors. A manufacturer is one who performs all the operations required to produce apparel, from buying the fabric to selling and shipping the finished garments. An apparel jobber handles the designing, the planning, the purchasing, usually the cutting, the selling, and the shipping, but not the actual sewing operation. A contractor is a producer whose sole function is to supply sewing services to the industry, where it is sometimes called an outside shop.
A manufacturer, by definition, is a producer who handles all phases of a garments production. The staff produces the original design or buys an acceptable design from a freelance designer. Each line is planned by the company executives. The company purchases the fabric and trimmings needed. The cutting and sewing are usually done in the companys factories. On certain occasions, however, a manufacturer may use the services of a contractor if sales of an item exceed the capacity of the firms sewing facilities and if shipping deadlines cannot otherwise be met.
Apparel jobbers handle all phases of the production of a garment except for the actual sewing and sometimes the cutting. Some jobber firm may employ a design staff to create various seasonal lines or may buy acceptable sketches from freelance designers. Jobbers, however, do not actually sew and finish garments. Instead, they arrange with outside factories run by contractors to perform these manufacturing operations.
Contractors usually specialize in just one phase of the production of a garment: sewing. In some cases contractors also perform the cutting operation from patterns submitted by a jobber or a manufacturer. Contractors serve those producers who have little or no sewing capability of their own as well as those current business exceeds their own capacity. If a contractor is used, cut pieces of the garment are provided by the manufacturer. For an agreed price per garment, the article is sewn, finished, inspected, and returned to the manufacturer for shipment to retail stores.
Size of producers
Throughout the history of the industry, many of the firms producing womens apparel have been relatively small. However, during the last two decades a number of large apparel companies have emerged.
Specialization by product
Traditionally, womens apparel firms were divided into distinct groups according to
types of apparel, size ranges and price zones. An increasing number of firms are developing diversified lines and crossing previously established price and product lines. Nevertheless, both producers and retail buyers still have to think and work in terms of product specialization.
The following are the traditional basic categories in womens apparel: Outerwear-includes coats, suits, rainwear, jackets. Dresses-includes one-or two-piece designs and ensembles (a dress with a jacket or coat). Sportswear and separates-includes active, contemporary; town and country and spectator sportswear, such as pants, shorts, tops, swimwear, and cover-ups; bathing caps, beach bags; sweaters; skirts; shirts; jackets; tennis dresses; casual dresses; pant-suits.
After-five and evening clothes-consists of dressy apparel, bride and bridesmaid attire, blouses -include both dressy and tailored. Uniforms and aprons- include house-dresses and sometimes career apparel. Maternity-includes dresses, sportswear.
Womens apparel is divided into several size ranges. It includes even-numbered half-sizes 12 to 26 and straight sizes 36 to 52. Misses -include regular even-numbered sizes 6 to 20, tall sizes 12 to 20, and sometimes sizes as small as 2. Juniors-includes regular sizes 5 to 17 and petite sizes 1 to 15. Petite-includes regular even-numbered sizes 2 to 16 and junior sizes 1 to 15.
Wholesale price zones
Womens apparel is produced and marketed at a wide range of wholesale prices. Major factors contributing to the wholesale price of a garment are:-
The quality of material used, the quality of workmanship employed, the amount and type of labour required in the production process. Within this wide range of prices, however, there are certain price zones that appeal to specific target groups of customers.
The womens apparel market has traditionally been divided into the following four price zones:
Designer-usually the higher prices; sometimes referred to as prestige market.
Better-usually the medium to high prices
Moderate-usually the medium prices
Budget-usually the lower prices sometimes referred to as the promotional or mass market.
MERCHANDISING AND MARKETING ACTIVITES
Most fashion producers sell directly to retail stores rather than through intermediaries. Womens apparel producers aim their sales promotion efforts at both retailers and consumers. Such efforts take the form of advertising, publicity, and promotional aids available to retailers who buy their products.
Advertising of womens fashion apparel carries the name of the apparel producer. The apparel manufacturing industry spends less than 1 percent of its annual total sales on advertising, but the exposure given to its products is impressive. Apparel producers advertise their apparel on television and radio, and in newspaper and magazines. Both fashion and general-interest magazines are prime outlets for advertising exposure for all apparel firms, as are trade publications to reach retailers. Another important source of exposure is cooperative advertising with retail stores.
Whether they spend money on advertising or not, apparel producers have many opportunities to familiarize the public with their brand names through publicity. To obtain maximum publicity, producers sometimes hire a public relations person or firm. These publicity firms distribute photographs of best-selling styles to newspapers and magazines. They also may supply TV and sports personalities with items of apparel in an attempt to attract public attention.
In addition to the individual efforts of firms to secure publicity, the major womens designer firms located in New York City show their collections at semi-annual press weeks. There are two press weeks in January and two in June. One is organized by the New York Couture Group, and the other is called the American Designers Showings.
Both give the countrys fashion editors (newspaper, magazine, radio, and television) an opportunity to examine the latest designer collections. Both also provide photographs, prepared stories, and interview opportunities that editors need to tell the fashion story to their audiences.
To assist retailers and to speed the sale of their merchandise, many apparel manufactures provide a variety of promotional aids. The range is vast, and a single firms offerings may include any or all of the following:
Display stock fixtures.
Suggestions for departmental layout and fixturing.
Reorder forms and assistance in checking stock for reorder purposes.
Educational booklets for salespeople and customers.
Talks to salespeople by producers representatives.
Assistance from producers fashion experts in training salespeople, staging fashion shows, and addressing customers.
Statements enclosures or other mailing pieces for the stores to send to customers.
Special retail promotions to tie in with producers national advertising campaigns.
Advertising mats for smaller stores.
One apparel producer showed a 20 minute color videotape featuring its current line to sales personnel of its retail store customers. The purpose of the videotape was to help educate the fashion sales personnel about fabrics, colors, silhouettes, and skirt lengths in the producers line, as well as the accessories necessary to complete this fashion message.
Another effective promotion is a trunk show. A trunk show means showing of samples of most of the producers line to a retail stores customers. A fashion show is usually part of the trunk show, with the producer or the producers representatives on hand to deliver the commentary, meet customers, and discuss actual garments. The retail stores customers may then order any of its item shown.
Everyone benefits from these special events. Customers see fashions that they might never otherwise see, and the retailer enjoys a dramatic influx of customers who come to see the show and place their orders. And finally, the manufacturer has an opportunity to see which of the styles shown are hot.
Sivambiga .V is a student of NIFT Kannur