Stories by Bimbola Oyesola
Nigeria’s fashion industry, comprising clothing line, manufacturing and other garment works can actually be one of the major industry that can be given proper attention under the economic diversification agenda.
Recently the Federal Government toyed with the idea that workers in the public sector may be allowed to come to work with the local fabrics throughout the week, unlike the present arrangement where workers use local fabrics only on Fridays. This was to further encourage patronage of Made-in-Nigeria textiles. This is quite laudable and definitely will be a good policy in the right direction, if it eventually comes into fruition. Besides encouraging local production, it would likewise discourage Nigerians insatiable thirst for foreign apparels which indirectly would save the hard earned foreign currency spent on imported fabrics.
But the beauty of it all is that it has further widened the horizon for entrepreneurs to go into the industry as there would now be more opportunity to make millions not only of naira, but in dollars too.
Bearing in mind that over 20 million Nigerians live in the Diaspora, and all these, one way or the other crave for local fabrics, it would indeed be a money spinning endavour. For those interested in the industry, there are various specialities to choose from as it could be clothing for men, women, children, fashionable napkins or towels, socks, underwear, curtains among others.
However, it must be noted no industry is easy to break into, and that is especially true about apparel. One reason for the higher rate of business failure anywhere in the world is competition. New designs are abundant, and today’s in-demand style will be tomorrow’s forgotten look.
The industry though may be capital intensive, it could as well accommodate those who wish to start small from the comfort of their homes. The first step therefore in starting a home clothing business is deciding what types of clothing to sell. It is more beneficial to sell a particular niche of clothing, such as children’s clothes as against clothes in general. Customers tend to respect the expertise of specialists when shopping for specific clothing. Sell clothing items in which you are interested or have product knowledge. Set aside a portion of your home for an office. Choose a spare bedroom, for example, this will eliminate cost on rent. Just like any business, you need creativity, drive and some solid business knowledge. It is equally noteworthy to know that you do not need to be a dressmaker or fashion designer to succeed in this line of business.
Meanwhile, many individuals who launch clothing lines do so because they are artistic, yet these individuals generally are not entrepreneurs who understand how businesses operate. In essence before launching an apparel line, individuals should consider the following start-up steps.
Learn about the clothing industry
How well do you know the industry? And more importantly, do you have any work experience? One of the best ways to reduce your business risk or failure is to learn practical ways to make your business succeed. A good way to do this is to take some fashion merchandising and/or business classes, read books about starting a clothing business or work in a store similar to one you’d like to open.
You know your style, it’s what inspired your business in the first place, now it’s time to name it. Decide upon a brand name that reflects you and is one your customers will remember. Once you’ve got the name, design a business logo. Your logo should reflect everything all together – your name and your style.
When deciding on your target market, start with the basics. Whom are you trying to dress? Are you designing women’s or men’s clothing? Are you specialising in adult, children, or both? Do you see yourself selling high-end fashions that would compare with the big brands around, or is your merchandise more sporty and casual? What are today’s trends and “must-haves” for your target market? Knowing your customers is the first step to running a successful clothing store.
Write a business plan
Develop a business plan and use it as an outline for your company. This plan should include – but not limited to – your overall ideas and logo; specific financial information and projections; a description of your target market; your business policies (hours of services, policy on returns, etc.); employee details; an advertising and marketing plan; and a potential exit strategy.
Determine start up costs
As stated earlier, your start up will be determined by your purse. Your business plan can help you allocate how much up-front costs you will need. Start by approximating your yearly rent, cost of machinery if you want to produce the clothing yourself, cost of goods sold and operation costs. If these numbers are still vague, talk to other business owners who have opened similar business.
Capital can be secured through investments from others — typically loans — or provided by the entrepreneur’s personal money. Beyond inventory, all advertising or promotional activities should be included in determining how much capital is needed.
Choosing a location
Your store or business location can make or break your company. When looking at several locations for your site, investigate the surrounding community – is it large enough to support your business? Does it cover your target market? Is the economy stable? Does the location have adequate parking space? All of these questions should go into your location decision. In addition, make sure your monthly rent is in line with your business plan’s projected profit.
In this line of business, you can equally serve as a training institute for people who wish to go into this area of business, through that you can make some additional income. So your staff who are professionals would add value to the business. However, hiring employees for a clothing store is different from hiring for other businesses. Like other companies, your employees are a reflection of you and your product. But in the apparel business, your employees’ personalities should also reflect your company’s image and style.
After choosing your target market, structure your advertising plan around it. Advertising and marketing your business is the key to getting and retaining customers. Not only do you have to get your name out so that customers will walk through your door, you want to convince them you have something unique that your competition doesn’t offer. A comprehensive advertising campaign will help you accomplish this.
If your budget permits, traditional advertising, such as billboard, newspaper, television and radio, will always help get your name out to potential customers. But remember, using coupons, special sales, and in-store promotions (such as a fashion show and buffet in your store), will also spread the word. You can even use yourself as a walking billboard.
Wear your own fashions whenever you’re out, carry business cards, and ask others what they think about your clothing. You’ll be surprised as to how many new customers will come in because of an inexpensive, grassroots campaign.
Create an online presence
A business without an online marketplace misses too many opportunities. E-commerce is growing rapidly as billions are spent monthly. And you have a lot to lose if you don’t move your business online, because the online commerce market is more important than a brick-and-mortar location.
You can get your products out of the country through relatives, friends or even courier. More Nigerians as earlier pointed out would love to wear traditional Nigerian clothes and even have it as souvenir for their foreign friends provided they are well made. So you must be able to carve a niche for yourself and produce the best designs that will be sought after. More patronage definitely means more forex!
Attend business expos and fashion shows. Not only will this help you establish your business and publicize your name; you can get great advice regarding financing, networking, and other important aspects of your business. Reading fashion magazines and trade publications is another great way to keep up with the latest trends. Trade associations are another excellent source because they can give you specific information about your particular market niche.
Establish a pricing model
Making a profit off the clothing line is necessary to the business’s success. Profit comes from making more revenue than the fixed and variable costs combined. Fixed costs are expenses that have already been invested and cannot change. These include equipment purchases or buying a facility for the business. In contrast, variable costs are expenses that can vary from one period to another. Examples include the price difference between manufacturers or the cost to produce different apparel items.
To ensure profit, the entrepreneur must establish wholesale and retail rates higher than the expenses. A target for these rates would be to earn a profit margin 30-50% higher than associated expenses.
80 foreign firms register for Nigeria’s 4-in-1 Fair
As part of measures to earn more foreign exchange for the country, over 80 manufacturing companies from 20 countries are billed to participate in this year’s Nigeria 4-in-1 specialised International exhibition holding from November 9-11 in Lagos.
The exhibition, which is the first to hold in Nigeria would only focus on four sectors of the economy, including the construction, decoration, beauty and agriculture.
The Project Coordinator, Nigeria-4-in-1 Expo, Mr. Jude Chime, said the exhibition is organised through the successful cooperation of Atilim Fairs and Elan Expo, whose international portfolio counts for a 100 exhibitions annually and covers the most dynamic sectors.
Among the countries participating in the exhibition, like United Arab Emirate (U.A.E), China, Oman, Thailand, South Africa, Kuwait, Libya, Portugal and Turkey.
According to the Coordinator, the expo would provide platform for Nigerian investors to meet with foreign counterparts, noting that it would be avenue for the local manufacturers to expand.
“The Nigeria 4-in-1 Expo is an exhibition where buyers meet manufacturers to analyse latest trends in the mentioned sectors and compare hundreds of products. Visitors will have a chance to hold B2B meetings with sector leaders”, he said.
Chime said, the exhibition would also afford the foreign investors opportunity to make appropriate decision in their quest to invest in the country.
He said, “We believe that it would be a good avenue for Nigeria to earn the much needed foreign exchange as we are diversifying from oil now. Those foreign investors coming in can actually make their choice of investments aside from oil. It’s definitely going to be a win-win for the country as more manufacturers in the country would definitely bring down prices of goods and make them more affordable for Nigerians.”
He added that the exhibition would equally afford Nigeria to participate and take full advantage of the global $14 trillion beauty and cosmetics industries.
However as part of giving back to the participants and visitors at the fair, Chime said there are special campaigns like win an all-expense paid trip to Istanbul-Turkey and other surprise gifts and discounts on products.
The exhibition which expects all the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory to participate, is to be declared open by the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode on November 9, 2016.