Thank you for sharing great post. very information for start ups.
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Sorry for the post being a bit long, but I think giving all the details would probably be the best idea.
Our company ### is based in Beijing, and we design and manufacture a whole line of casual apparels (men, women, kids; style wise, Nautica/Ralph Lauren alike, minus the excessive fashion elements) that are mainly exported to the CIS states and some countries in Eastern Europe. There are about one hundred stores operating under our brand *** in Russia (all franchise, run by local Russians).
We have been trying to develop some opportunities in North America since 2011, without much success however. The project has been going slow (maybe because we haven’t really put much effort into this). Specifically, we want to sell down jackets and down coats in Canada for a start, as down jackets have been our most profitable line (this is the experience from dealing with CIS countries, though might not apply here). Most of my colleagues put a lot of thought into this, and they’ve attended shows in Munich and so on, but not yet any shows in North America.
In any case, right now we’ve come to a point where developing business in North America is our number 1 priority, since we don’t need to further our business in CIS and eastern Europe anymore, where distributors just come to us through word of mouth. So what I’m asking here is you smart people’ advice in terms of general business ideas, or apparel distribution and retail, or even something I’m not yet thinking of right now. Specifically,
1) We’re an unknown company in North America
2) We’re willing to make design tweaks so that our clothes don’t look too…” Soviet”
3) We can attend trade shows in US or Canada, but I don’t know if that’s cost effective, and visa could be a hassle for some of my colleagues.
4) We are not sure what the best way is to get started. Contact Macy’s, Pennys, or lower end regional clothing stores? Are there shops in Canada that only sell down coat, down jacket (the case in Russia) that we can perhaps partner with?
5) We could buy/acquire/form joint venture with an established local manufacturer or distributor. Not sure if that’s a good idea though, and also don’t know where to start.
6) How about online only retailers? Perhaps they’re easier to work with as a distribution channel in terms of getting our product onto their shelf, compared to department stores?
7) (A little off topic) The other day, we were talking about defining a feature or an unique advantage for our product, so what do you guys feel that is lacking when you purchase your down coat? Design? Price? Quality? Versatility? Even though we’re based in China, we don’t honestly possess an advantage in manufacturing cost anymore (for that there’s Vietnam and so on), but quality has really become a whole lot better in the last 10 years for Chinese made apparels.
Thank all of you in advance!