How To Get Your Clothing Line Into Retail Stores

a floating pullover white sweatshirt on a green background

If you’re a small business owner in the fashion industry, getting your clothing brand into physical and online retail stores is a key way to reach potential customers. With the right wholesale retail strategy, you can overcome the inevitable challenges, expand your market reach, validate your brand identity, and establish relationships with your customers.

Here are some tips for getting started.

How to get your clothing in stores

  1. Develop your clothing brand
  2. Prepare your product for retail stores
  3. Research retailers
  4. Approach retailers
  5. Maintain your relationship with retailers

With the right wholesale strategy and preparation, getting your clothing into stores is an achievable first step to starting your fashion empire. Remember these guidelines as you begin the process of navigating the complex world of building wholesale relationships with fashion retail so you can increase your chances of success.

1. Develop your clothing brand

the Crawford Denim Instagram page feed

Take the time to build a brand that appeals to your target audience. Companies such as Crawford Denim and Vintage Co.—a Shopify merchant—attract retailers with a distinct brand identity that’s easily recognized on social media. Create a logo, make a website, and open an online store so you can sell clothes directly to your customers.

Ecommerce platforms such as Shopify are useful when you want to expand your online clothing store. Consider using Shopify’s website builder to start the process of building a brand and creating a presence in the online space. A good track record with your online business can help prove your clothing company’s value to retail stores.

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2. Prepare your product for retail stores

Getting your merchandise ready for a retail space takes quite a few steps. For starters:

  • Make sure your clothing lines are retail ready.
  • Implement a quality control process for all your garments, tags, and packaging.
  • Develop a clear marketing strategy that focuses on your target market.
  • Create a line sheet—a document you can send to retail stores that include photographs of your garments along with information about materials, sizes, color options, and product pricing.
  • Tally your development, production, distribution, and marketing costs.

On the business planning side of things, consider a profit margin calculator to figure out your profit margin. Add your profit margin to your total costs to establish your wholesale prices.

3. Research retailers

Once your clothing line is retail ready, it’s time to find the right stores for your clothing line. Perform a competitive analysis to learn about how other clothing companies attract retailers. If you want your clothing brand in a brick-and-mortar store, consider starting with local retailers. Make a list of all the retailers you think would be good potential buyers for your brand.

Jack Meredith, VP of marketing at Kettle & Fire, experienced the process of doing this research first hand: “I think a good first step is to really do your research and find sharp folks that understand that side of the business, whether it’s the wholesale, retail side, or the online side. If you try to jump in with your own assumptions and lack of understanding, then that’s where it can get really sideways.”

crowded grocery store shelves stocked with broth and stock
Source: Kettle & Fire

Jack adds: “When we tackled retail at Kettle & Fire, it’s not like it was just the co-founders that were like, ‘OK, we’re going to go into Whole Foods tomorrow. Let’s figure it out.’ We made sure to find a sharp first hire on our sales team that had been there before and had that seasoned experience and knew those relationships and how they worked. I think that’s a very important first step.”

4. Approach retailers

Begin contacting retailers on your list. Try making in-person appointments with the smaller brick-and-mortar shops. Retailers typically want to feel the quality of your goods before putting them on their store shelves, so remember to bring physical samples along with your line sheet. For larger chains, check out their websites to learn if they accept pitches for new clothing lines.

Another way to get your clothing brand in front of retailers is by attending fashion conferences or trade shows. If you want to sell products directly to customers while testing out the retail potential of your brand, consider opening a temporary pop-up shop. This is what Strange Ways did with pop-up shops at retailers like Urban Outfitters. Another option is to hire a consultant to help introduce your products to retail stores.

5. Maintain your relationship with retailers

Introduce yourself to the store owners of small businesses that sell your clothes. Follow up and be ready to adapt based on new orders or feedback about your products. Manage expectations with any clothing store that carries your brand, and always meet your order deadlines. Keep your eye on inventory and production workflow to avoid running out of stock.

Earning a good reputation with retailers as a clothing brand is a great way to attract new buyers. Chris Vanderkolk, who works on Demand Gen at Marsello, agrees. “Brick-and-mortar retailers, especially single-site ones, have a competitive advantage that’s hard to contend with: their customer relationships,” Chris says. “Developed via face-to-face communication, built on product knowledge, understanding of buyer preferences, and community presence, brick-and-mortar retailers build deep and lasting relationships with their customers.”

How to get your clothing in stores FAQ

How do you identify the target market for your clothing line?

Consider the age, incomes, locations, and other demographics of potential buyers. Market research can supply many of these important metrics. Then, survey existing customers if you have any, and study your competition. This will give you a sense of the type of people most likely to be interested in your clothing brand.

Do you need a website to get your clothing in stores?

It’s helpful to have your own online store for your clothing brand before approaching brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers. Having a thriving online clothing store is one of the best ways you can prove the value of your clothing products to other retailers.

How do you make sure your clothing is retail ready?

Develop a consistent brand identity with a memorable logo, distinctive tags, and quality garments. Take photographs of your clothing items and list them in a line sheet for retailers to review, along with information about the size, design, and price of your products.

How do you price your clothing for retail?

Before putting your clothing brand in a retail store, make sure to calculate the right wholesale price for your products. First, add up the costs of producing, marketing, and distributing your clothing line. On top of that, add the appropriate profit margin to establish your wholesale price.