Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hilarious Fashion Tips to Make You Laugh

For your enjoyment here are some funny fashion tips; please don't shoot the messenger.

1. Fashion Tips For Women From A Guy Who Knows Dick About Fashion (R rated)

A) Red Lipstick Makes You Look Like a Clown

B) Castro Hats Make You Look Like a Dictator

C) Crocs Look Like Crap and Make Your Feet Smell

D) Self-Aggrandizing "Hottie" Shirts Make You Look Like a Witch

E) Wear This and Your Head is Coming out of a Giant Female Rose Bud
F) Breast Curtains Make You Look Pregnant

2. Mens Summer Fashion Mistakes (G Rated)

A) Never Wear White Socks
B) Jean Shorts Are Never Okay Unless Your An Overweight Plumply Man
C) Cut off Jeans with Fringe Over Hairy Legs Are Scary
D) Capri Styled Pants for Men are Not "in"

3. DontSpotting User Uploaded Photos (PG Rated)

Check out the Worst of the Worst

4. There are Some Looks that Should be Outlawed (PG Rated)

Plaids and prints on the posterior make for prickly predicaments. With this much patterned "ca-Pow"on the cooley one expects clown shoes to anchor the ensemble.

Big bad boobie pockets give you beastly blouse baggage.

A big white bra strap is NOT a fashion accessory! It's called underwear for a reason.

This "Coin Slot" is OUT OF ORDER! Nobody wants to see the revealing introduction to your cooley! Make sure your junk isn't peaking out of your trunk.

Tight low rise jeans, heavy belts and tiny tees put your pooch on parade!

Over plucked, dislocated, misshaped, or drawn on clown-brows are a MAJOR NO NO!

I hope you laughed as much as I did!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Be a Corky & Company Warehouse Sale VIP

The Corky & Company warehouse sale dates in Fall River, Massachusetts are posted at For the one percent of people that are still reading this post, I'll explain why we have a semi-annual warehouse sale and some tactical approaches to beat your enemy combatants at the sale.

If I start another business the one thing I could live without is inventory. The fashion business is like the Goldilocks story, but instead of porridge substitute inventory. At Corky we rarely have the right amount of inventory, we either have too much or barely enough. After 15 years wouldn't you figure we'd have the demand forecasting down cold, well we don't!

This week we started placing fabric and trim orders for coats that will be delivered to stores this fall. Between now, when we have only ten percent of our customer orders written, and the back to school shopping season a lot will happen. Store orders will be increased, decreased or canceled, suppliers will go out of business, fabrics will be rejected as inferior quality and need to be reproduced, shipments will be delayed in customs, dye lots won't match, the wrong color or styles will be cut and the correct ones will need to be re-cut, customers unfortunately will go out of business, some styles will blow out at retail and be reordered, others styles won't sell very well and the dog will eat my daughters homework.

What does this all mean? Simply at the end of every fashion season Corky has a mixture of extra styles, sizes and colors leftover. We could sell it to discounters, but that would be in direct competition to the loyal specialty stores that have kept us in business all these years. So twice a year for one week after we are done shipping product to retailers we open to the public for a warehouse sale.

From my perspective the sale serves two purposes, first it takes leftover inventory and puts cash in our checking account so we can pay our bills, and secondly it lets us see what consumers like. It's like having a week long marketing focus group. All Corky employees work the sale and listen; this style runs to small, this one to big, I like this color better than that color, why can't I find what I saw in the boutique - it looked like... Then we take the feedback and use it to influence the direction of the next years collection. So that's why we have the warehouse sale and now let me give some survival tips for the sale.

If you've ever attended the sale you know the early birds get the best selection, but they also must bear a brutal check-out line. For the people local enough to attend the sale let me clue you in on some key strategies for shopping the sale.

1) The ultimate is to earn VIP status. If you spend over $400 you'll be put on a VIP list for the next two sales and you'll be able to bring along a guess. A special invitation will arrive in the mail to let you know the date and time and you will need to bring the invitation to enter the sale. About 200 people are invited as opposed to the 15,000 that are invited to the public sale. Yes, you get some refreshments and some special attention, but more importantly, you get first pick of the merchandise! HINT #1: Shop with a friend and check out together to go over the $400. You'll only get one invitation, but one can come as the guest of the other.

2) Sign-up for the email list at There is an email only day sometime before the sale opens to the public. Hint#2: Sign up for the list and you'll be a step ahead of the public opening.

3) On the day the sale opens to the public, the doors sometimes open early in an effort to keep ahead of the impending check-out lines. Hint #3: Show up 15 minutes early and you may beat the rush.

4) The biggest issue people have is not finding a matching coat, hat and pair of mittens. Almost everybody charges in and grabs a half dozen coats and then goes searching for the matching hats and mittens. Hint #4) Go find a few matching hats and mittens and then circle back around and get the matching coat. You'll have better luck in completing the set.

5) Wait till the third day of the sale. You won't get the best selection, but you'll find something nice and leave with your sanity and morals intact. Hint #5) To avoid coat rage come on the third day.

To all our loyal warehouse sale customers thank you for your business and patience. I know the service at the sale may not be stellar, but please know everybody at Corky works their hardest to hold this event and you've certainly made it a great event. Every employee from design, production, customer service, distribution and
finance is on the floor or at the check out counter along with some great friends and family.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Treat Your Customers Like Royalty

In my office, a framed poster from Successories hangs on the most prominent wall. It reads:

It takes months to find a customer, but only seconds to lose one.

It's not a piece of art which complements the decor of my office; it's simply gold words printed on an orange background with a cheap black frame. In fact it's rather ugly, but the message is important. It's amazing how frequently my employees, suppliers and I discuss the message.

1) When prospective employees are interviewing in my office, I ask what they think of the saying. Their response to the question better be consistent with my philosophy or I quickly finish the interview and wish the person good luck.

2) When any of my employees complain about the demands of a customer request, we simply refer to the poster.

3) When I over hear a conversation or read an email that does not treat a customer with respect and dignity, we refer to the poster and the customer is called.

4) When a supplier is pumping attitude, I ask them to come visit me. We refer to the poster and they understand the reason for our demands. Many times the sales person leaves to buy one of the posters for their office.

5) We now have suppliers on four continents and its amazing how global this simply statement is understood.

With new customer acquisition being extremely expensive, the best marketing investment a business can make is one which retains existing customers. When Corky first started 15 years ago, I admit new customer acquisition took front seat over customer retention. One day nirvana hits you between the eyes and you think how much product a single customer has purchased over the years.

New customers are good for your ego, but existing customers are what keeps you in business. Treat your customers like royalty and you'll be well rewarded with loyalty.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mill to Produce Fabric for the Domestic Market?

The Fashion Incubator wrote an interesting post today titled, The Impending Crisis. Three issues were explored 1) the state of the economy 2) the rate of exchange and 3) the price of energy and how this has affected the apparel industry based on comments from Birnbaum's Newsletter.

Just last week I wrote a post, 5 Tips to Export: America is On Sale, where I explored the effects of the rate of exchange and the price of energy on American designers and manufacturers. I concluded that a 90% increase in transportation costs were more than offset by a 40% dollar depreciation which set an unprecedented state for small manufacturers to export American designs.

I wonder if the [production] losses in Mexico and Caribbean Basin represent opportunities to those [small manufacturers] who want to outsource but not far afield?" The answer is yes! The American apparel infrastructure has crumbled and there is just no way to bring it back. However, the apparel infrastructure and labor rates in the Caribbean Basin and Central America are competitive given that inflation in China is running at 15% annually, a trip to Central America from New York is only a four hour flight and door to door delivery of a container is one week.

Then Kathleen hit a grand slam with this comment, "Assuming I had the interest and the capital (including intellectual capital), I'd open a mill to produce fabric for the domestic market." Although it might have been written as a joke it would have a significant amount of merit if you said, "I'd open a mill in the Caribbean Basin or Central America to produce fabric for the US domestic market."

With ratification of DR-CAFTA, a free trade agreement was established between the Dominican Republic, Central America and the United States. However, to take full advantage of the duty free provisions for imported apparel, the cloth needs to be made in one of the member countries. Imagine the demand for any mill that could eliminate a 20% tariff on products entering the US. Well, if quality knit and woven mills, and dye and print shops set up in the Dominican Republic or Central America the small manufacturer would be close to cost parity with China or Sri Lanka.

I have pitched this idea to the President of all my domestic fabric suppliers. Not one has bit. I hope one sees the light and begins the painful but rewarding process of setting up shop offshore, but very close to home. Yes at first the orders would be small, but then the lost volume accounts would be sucked right back from Asia and we would once again have a vibrant local apparel industry.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Early Easter May Forecast Retail Markdowns

How early is Easter? I've done a bit of research and it doesn't get any earlier than this year!

In the 250 year span from 1875 to 2124 Easter never has been before March 23rd. In 250 years Easter occurs only twice on March 23rd, first in 1913 and then again this year 2008. For kids apparel retailers an early Easter usually shortens the full price selling season.

Consumers have come to expect markdowns on spring and summer kid clothing after Easter, but because Easter is so early this may not be the case. Mothers, the primary shopper for kids clothes, can't remember an Easter so early and this is sure to alter shopping patterns and behavior. My guess is a strong first half of March for retailers, a slow second half of March, followed by a very strong first half of April leading into the spring school vacation weeks.

The silver lining is the typical consumer buying behavior will return for the foreseeable future. Here are the Easter dates for the next four years.

2009 April 12
2010 April 4
2011 April 24
2012 April 8

My advise to childrenswear retailers is don't panic when sales drop off during the second half of March, its only due to the early Easter. Plan your strongest spring events for the beginning of April and you'll reap the rewards in the first half of April.