IMPRESSIONS from a Cross-section


You have been working as a fashion vendor for several years. What are the pros and cons of doing such a business?

Quality should be the #1 priority
Most Indian ready-to-wear labels prefer vendors who not only present stylish collections season after season, but also have great facilities to produce them. <b>Meher Castelino</b> speaks to a few fashion vendors about their business.

Being a fashion vendor is exciting work, and there has to be a constant flow of orders to keep things running. Fortunately, the business of fashion is all-year round with the peak months being from June to September. There is a slight lean season just after Diwali, but to ensure a constant flow of orders we have a regular line of new designs coming in nearly every month.

We do not have promotional programmes to push our company to buyers, and rely on word of mouth. Of course, being a vendor to top labels and attaching their labels is preferred over having one of my own label. It is because starting my label would require high capital and an inventory, which can be quite difficult (at times).

Meanwhile, there are of course advantages and disadvantages of being a fashion vendor with problems being part of the business, which have to be handled with utmost care. The advantages are that quantities are good; so, I can plan production capacities and there is no dead stock to worry about. The disadvantage is that money can be stuck if buyers don't pay on time, and so one needs a big capital investment. 

We also need a continuous flow of orders to increase the per day efficiency without periods of discontinued operations. At times, periods of fluctuating deliveries could affect the brand's image, which in turn can affect our business as well.

Getting a break as a vendor to big stores like Shoppers Stop is not as easy as many may think, since the requirements of top stores and brands are at times hard to match. They want factories with large production capacities and have different health and safety requirements. Then, there is the question of different product styles; each retailer has its own priority of time, cost and quantity.

To be in the game of fashion vending one has to keep many factors in mind. To maintain quality, it is important to manufacture in-house. Quality should be the #1 priority if you want to be in the game for the long run. It is important to choose, which companies to work for as the quality expectation of that company trains the hands of your labourers, and those hands can't be ruined for any amount of money. 

Advantages would be that you get to learn so many new things through brands, in terms of management, QC, pricing, averaging. Disadvantages would be not being paid enough to survive through inflation and higher expectations of the labourers. Lack of buyers' understanding of ground problems, such as labour issues, variations in woven fabrics, and a general sense of the time it takes to put things together are all part of the pros and cons. Maintaining a balance between good quality staff and the CMTs (cut-make-trim) offered by brands is another factor. Finally, managing the financial cycle of 90 days is a real challenge. With good quality products and styles, it is easy to get work. In fact, you get recognised and approached by brands too.

Being a vendor has been a great opportunity. The advantage is that I get to work and learn with the best and also we don't have to worry about recovering dues. The disadvantage is that we are usually between a rock and a hard place in terms of working with corporates and dealing with local small players, but-like I said-we have to deal with professionals at one end, while the local suppliers have their own ways of doing things. Also, add to that the handling of labour and bureaucrats. It is easier to start a facility and very difficult to sustainably function for a long term.

Working as a vendor has its pros and cons. Advantages are that you get business throughout the year. Disadvantages are that you get a low fixed margin, which at times becomes difficult to work on. Also, meeting timely deliveries with quality is important when working as a vendor.

Published on: 24/07/2019

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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