Twenty years have passed since I started my career in retailing.
It all started when I finished college. I had just finished my degree in Economics and was starting my degree in Management. My father asked me if I could give some help in our family stores and I accepted. My family had been in the fashion industry for years. The industry was the main business but we also had 7 stores selling mainly shirts and trousers.
Anyway, I started helping the manager of this chain store. Computers were starting to become an important management tool. My first task was to introduce computers to daily operations.
Along the way I found something that changed completely the way I see partners. This manager (he was also a partner) was stealing the company.
Apart from stealing the company he was a bad manager. He was never there. Sales were decreasing. We were loosing money. A lot of money. How much money? Nobody knew for sure.
After a few months of negotiation the partners agreed to separate. My family got 5 stores and the other partner 2 stores. And this is how I became the manager of 5 stores at the age of 25.
In the next twenty years I had several businesses, always in fashion retailing.
Some of them were very profitable, some of them were not. And some of them were profitable in the beginning but become unprofitable after a few years. For me, this was never a problem. If you want to succeed in fashion retailing you have to accept the fact that people change, new trends emerge and sometimes it’s better to “kill” your business and move to another project.
Along the way I created the best and most profitable t-shirt store chain in my country. The chain still exists and is very profitable.
A few years ago I started to do consulting and I love to teach and help other people. My clients are making big money, and of course, me too.
But you don’t want to read my memories. You want to learn something from my experience, from my mistakes and from my successes.
So here are five things I think I can teach you from my experience.
- You can have a partner and trust him, but you have to find a way to control accounts, right from the beginning.
- Nothing beats hard work. Look at examples like Sam Walton (Walmart), Amancio Ortega ( Zara) and Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea). When I had the most successful businesses I was working long hours, 6 days a week, no time to enjoy the money. But I felt great. One of the great joys of fashion retailing is seeing people everywhere, wearing clothes bought on your store.
- Forget about fame and appearing in fashion magazines, fashion shows and fashion parties. I have never had success doing that. My greatest success happened when I was at the company, managing everything and with direct contact with the customers. Look at Amancio Ortega of Zara, when he first appeared to the public he was already a millionaire and one of the biggest retailers in the world. Until then, he was in the company every day and in stores learning how he could sell more to the customers.
- Only hire when you really need. If you think you’re going to sell $100,000 in your first year, you’ll probably sell $50,000. If you don’t have too many employees you can survive one more year and make $100,000 in sales the next year.
- Don’t focus too much on the product, especially in the quality. Packaging is as important as product. And by packaging I don’t mean the bag or box, but the design of the store, the merchandising display, the windows and others.