MAGIC Interview: Allay California
The third interview I did at Magic was with Randy and Liza of Allay California who I mentioned previously. Randy and Liza have been hanging around FI for quite awhile (and bought my book a couple of years ago) so they invited me to come and visit them in their booth in the contemporary men’s section (#CT5634 for those of you with show guides). Their product is what Liza describes as a Turtle Scarf. Below is a photo:
As is often the case, Liza unknowingly started this venture in 2004 when she came up with the idea and started hand crocheting these scarves for her friends, family and beloved. Soon enough she figured she was onto something and went official (the Turtle Scarf is trademarked and patented). Since then, they’ve been to several markets, this is their third time at MAGIC. They said that originally they’d been in the STREETWEAR section but that it wasn’t a good venue for them because of their buyers. Too much of a party. That reminds me; although the STREETWEAR section of MAGIC got a lot of kudos in trip reports, you have to consider your market, that may not be a good place for you. Randy and Liza just recently returned from showing in Germany at the ISPO (International Trade Fair For Sports Equipment and Fashion) show. As a matter of fact, they won an award, finalists in the Brand-New Start Up competition.
Maybe a show in Germany seems too far fetched for most of you but you have to consider your market. As it happens, their biggest market is Europe and Japan; their line is hot over there. Whatever is big over there usually takes us about two years to figure out but you don’t have to wait that long. You can say you found out about the Turtle Scarf here first. Liza said they were a bit nervous going over since they didn’t speak German but it ended up not being a problem since everyone over there wanted to practice their English. She also said they were surprised at just how nice everyone was; they had a fabulous time and are ready to go back again.
Again about showing at market. Randy and Liza seemed to be pretty pleased with this year’s show although they didn’t take a lot of orders. As Liza explained, they’ve been doing this long enough to know that most of their orders come in three to four months after the show. Buyers may stop in to look at the new colors but they take information with them and place orders later. Also, Liza says they’ve seen some of the same buyers visiting them a few times who haven’t placed any orders. This is common. As I’ve said before, buyers will visit you repeatedly to see if you’re still in the game (and presumably making deliveries otherwise, why would you still be there) before they’ll finally buy because they’re waiting out their own game and figuring out how to introduce a new product to see how it’ll fit in their mix. Plus, they have to budget you in because ideally, you want to be a regular vendor and not part of their OTB budget.
While in their booth, I gave them a freebie product review, the results of which they agreed to share with you. I love doing product reviews, just love it. I know a lot of consultants charge several thousand dollars (!) to do these but I’m hard pressed to charge much because I like doing them so much. Anyway, I felt they had two core problems. The first was too much product and paradoxically, not enough product.
With respect to too much product, they had items I call orphans, things that didn’t belong in the line. Specifically, these were some tee shirts with their logo on them, surrounded with other graphics. The tees Really Did Not Belong in the mix for several reasons. First, the shirt quality wasn’t comparable to the scarves quality, not even on the same level. Also, the colors didn’t match the colorways of the scarves and it just looked muddled and confusing, not a cohesive story line as expressed through color. Then, the aforementioned additional graphics were muddling the presentation of their logo. You couldn’t tell where their logo began or ended; one shirt had a little bird and a rainbow off to the side and this just didn’t work. As I explained to them, it wasn’t that they couldn’t have tees but I felt for their market (remember, contemporary upscale men’s section) they needed golf shirts with a nice heavyweight cotton with ribbed collars and embroidered logo on the chest to match the scarf colorways. If they insisted on casual tees, they were going to have to buy the highest quality shirts on the market; again with an embroidered logo rather than screenprinting.
In regards to not enough product, they had a huge gaping hole in their offerings; specifically kid’s scarves, and mittens and gloves for men, women and children. They really need to add those items as soon as they possibly can, like yesterday. If you only have one (for all intents and purposes) product or signature piece, you really have to work at building around it so it doesn’t look like an orphan or a one-trick pony itself. Plus, if people really like your piece, they’re happy to pick up matching accoutrements which improves your margins with easy selling products that are essentially commodities. I also suggested they experiment with some new designs with regard to weaves, fabrications, patterns and colors. Yeah, I know, me, suggesting new colorways -but the product really begs it. I also suggested they consider adding scarves made in polar fleece for the ubergeek outdoor performance gear crowd. I could just see this product in REI. Maybe they could also consider private label, who knows?
I think the sky’s the limit with this thing and I look forward to watching them grow and saying I knew them way back when (I look forward to saying that about all of you). Anyway, I hope you enjoy meeting Randy and Liza as much as I did (Randy is pictured below).