Do not ship samples to anyone who wants them!
There have been a couple of recent incidents regarding the loss of samples that have been brought to my attention. Under no circumstances are your samples to be shipped off to be placed under the control of parties who have not paid for them. Those of you who own the book I wrote already know this. The only people you send samples to are your sales reps or possibly a PR firm that is representing you. Yes, I know, PR people want two sets but Miracle says “don’t do it” (if they’re starting to get a lot of calls for your stuff, then you can send another set but don’t send two sets as a matter of course).
Shipping off your samples upon request to anyone else is simply not done. Yes, I know that there are some people making one-sies and two-sies who ship things off to be juried in art fairs and what not, but I’m not talking about the “art wear” or craft market. I don’t know anything about that market and don’t pretend to. Likewise, I realize some of you are making very small items, such as inexpensive accessory items and in such case, do as you will. If you’re making staples, throw aways, fine. That’s just marvy, go wild. However, established industrial practices are such that sending off pre-market samples of fashion related goods to a party -such as a retailer- are considered untoward. Furthermore, no reputable retailer will request such a thing -unless they think you don’t know any better. If someone is asking you something like that, then there is already something about you that is giving off the vibe that you don’t know what’s what. You don’t know what you don’t know (read the book). An established retailer would never expect samples from an established manufacturer so why should they expect them from you?
You can do whatever you want but I strenuously discourage the practice of shipping samples of finished goods (there is no problem to send fabric swatches or trims). Only do it if you are willing to risk that your products are never returned to you and are willing to risk that your products are knocked off. This is what has happened to a visitor to our blog (he doesn’t have the book so he was a target for that as well as a lot of other things he hasn’t figured out yet). A retailer in Phoenix AZ, has gotten wise to newbies who don’t know any better. As a matter of course, she now requests samples. Anyone who sends her anything, never hears from her again. I’ve done some checking up on her. Apparently, she’s become really cocky about it with the new lines. She’s pushy and throws a fit if a designer turns her down. Allow me to assure you, anyone who demands samples of you is out of line. If they are willing to pay for them, or pay a deposit, then great. Otherwise, forget it. Sure, I’m sure you know people who do it but does that mean you’ll be as lucky? [There is very little "luck" to this business by the way.] Sending samples on demand is only something newbies do. Don’t do it.
I don’t even like the idea of shipping samples off, even with a deposit. How do you think things get ripped off? I knew a retailer that everybody thought was just a boutique owner (snazziest boutique in town) but he had a deal with his best buddy (who owned a big factory). Whatever Tom said would be hot -and he brought in the samples- they’d cut a gazillion of them. This “small time” retailer would take samples down to the factory and have them copied. I worked there! I know! Those designers never knew how they were getting knocked off. Boy, they’d cry on Tom’s shoulder because he was so nice. They didn’t know the connection. Tom would turn around and buy the knock offs (at a lower price of course) from his friend’s factory so the designer would get burned there too. To say nothing of the fact that previously their line was only local but with Tom’s “help” they went national in one season. Without their label in it of course. Their look was shown at markets they had never even been to themselves. Their look went everywhere and they got none of the credit. Do not leave your samples with a retailer!. And that includes the nice ones. Tom was a great guy! Very charismatic, charming, funny, very very nice. Everybody (except me) liked him. Him, I never liked, even before I knew his tricks. Something about him gave me the willies. I will never understand why designers are so paranoid and want their pattern makers to sign NDAs and then they go off and ship their samples to the very people who are all set to do them the worst damage. That’s why I won’t sign NDAs. Designers ship pre-market samples off to someone who has the wherewithal to beat them to market and the designer is worried about me? What an insult. Heck, with the style numbers they come up with, these DEs may as well tattoo “target” on their foreheads for all the subtlety of it. These guys see you coming a mile away. But does anybody listen to me? Noooooo…
I know, I know, several of you will say that the quality and characteristics of your product cannot be fully appreciated from a web page, post card or a line sheet and a retailer needs to have product in hand for a complete experience. Honest, between you and me I have no doubts you have a great product -really- but people manage to buy over the web or via a catalog without having the product in front of them Every. Single. Day. If you want to show your products in real life, that is what sales calls are for. Get a rep. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to make do serving your local community or region till such time that you have the ability to attend a market or whatever.
Standard traditional protocol for fashion related products is that they are never out of sight of the sales rep. Never. They should only be in the care of a person who has paid for them -the sales rep buys them from you, why should a retailer be any different? And by the way, I’d charge full retail price if you were going to require a deposit. The DE who got ripped off by that lady in Phoenix, shipped 6 high end leather handbags. Word has it that he’s never going to get them back. And because he doesn’t have a signed agreement with her -that she’d be financially responsible for them- he’s out of luck to collect. Fortunately in his case, this retailer’s practice hasn’t been to copy goods. She just wants the free inventory. She’s just into stealing people’s products, not their designs. For now. Maybe she’ll meet up with Tom.