In 2014, ourÂ clothing company announced plans to largely transition out of traditional offline wholesale partnerships, to focus on connecting directly with our consumers.Â Our rationale was simple: to create a new category in our industry, we couldn’t rely onÂ the peopleÂ who pushed forward only the existing categories.
We were already operatingÂ online, retailing directly to our loyal customer base. But in 2014, we decided to branch out and ended up with four channels; retail online, retail offline, wholesale online, and wholesale offline. Like many young companies, we prided ourselves not only on our product and brand, but also on our ability to tell our story. We consider education a key component of our growth strategy. Our business is based onÂ consumer-insight design; however, we wereÂ shiftingÂ towards buyers, not customers.Â This would have been a dangerous mistake–not only preventing us from telling our story, but also from designing our way.
After about a year of pushing–attending grueling trade shows, succumbing to painful terms, and, worst of all, hard selling our product line–we decided to call it quits with traditional wholesale. Here’s why, and how you can do the same without losing too much business, if you find yourself similarly constrained.
Questioning Categories Shouldn’t BeÂ Off Limits
In traditional brick-and-mortar sales, such as local department stores, you can’t question traditional categories. But, like our predecessors Lululemon andÂ Tesla–who eachÂ invented a new space–we aimedÂ to create a totally new category of clothing, in our case, performance menswear. The old guard doesn’t leave much room for category creation, where locations are stocked by tightly defined, existing constructs of categories. These are separated by aisles, buying teams, and pricing strategies. Unfortunately, this wasn’tÂ a model that fit our product.
Aman Advani is CEO and Co-Founder of Ministry of Supply, a menswear company focused on creating a new category of clothing, performance professional, through a collaboration between experienced engineers and seasoned fashion experts.
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