The product development process ensures the proper manufacture of product. The next step is costing, ordering, and financing. Basic steps to the product development process include the following:
- Planning a line. This involves the work of a designer or a product development team (depends on the organization of the company). Past sales information, trends, and markdowns are reviewed as well as information on color, textiles, and components (thread, buttons, linings, trims, zippers). The purpose is to present the best possible product line to the consumer.
- Creating the design concept. Designer sketches are reviewed and discarded with the purpose of choosing the best possible design for the product line. Discarded concepts either are not a good fit for the line or may be too costly to produce.
- Developing the designs. Design concepts chosen to be developed are sewn as sample garments. Another process of review takes place with some designs being discarded on account of cost while others are sent for modification. Those designs accepted are assigned a style number and will become part of the line.
- Planning production. The planning of production begins with sourcing textiles, components, and choosing a manufacturer.
- Production. The steps to garment production involve pattern making, sewing, and finishing (tags, labels, and preparation for shipping). Quite often, the search for offshore manufacturing is outsourced to companies that specialize in that component of the product development cycle. After production, the final step is product inspection or quality assurance.
- Distribution. Before a garment is shipped to the warehouse or retailer, bar codes and sales tickets are added.
The production of apparel product can happen both domestically (United States) or offshore (East Asia, Taiwan, South Korea, Southeast Asia). Offshore production is typically utilized by larger companies for reasons of price reduction, exclusivity of design, and quality workmanship. Many smaller companies have chosen to continue to produce their apparel products domestically while still maintaining their competitive edge in their retail category.
Retail Product Life-Cycle
Businesses take into account the various stages of the retail product life cycle or the fashion life cycle: introduction, growth, peak, and decline.
- Introduction. Product is introduced to the marketplace or consumer at a high level and purchased by trend setters willing to pay a high price for exclusive designer apparel.
- Growth. This takes into account the rise of the product to the mass market in terms of rapid sales growth and popularity. Related to apparel, knock-offs are adopted by fashion followers.
- Peak. Sales hit their peak and the product experiences steady sales.
- Decline. This signifies a loss of popularity and would be considered the markdown/clearance stage.
Product Development Options
Product development, used by both retailers and wholesale manufacturers, is a joining together of market and trend research, merchandising, design, and technical processes.
Wholesalers utilize product development in the production of branded merchandise, also known as signature brands.
Retailers utilize product development in the production of private-label merchandise, also called specification buying. Private-label merchandise is manufactured to the specification of the buyer or store as opposed to the manufacturer’s specifications and carries the name used exclusively by the retailer.
Licensed merchandise is a way for top designers to get their product in the hands of the mid-market. Licensing means to give permission, and retailers who license product are awarded the right to use likeness, name, voice, and signature in the production and marketing of the product.
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