Written by

Ross West


July 22, 2021

7 Key Metrics to Ensure a Strong Apparel Brand

Shopping online while in store

Soft goods are a unique business. Brand managers, marketing teams and designers continually refresh and remarket to create consumer demand for new styles. Sales teams present new collections multiple times a year with the goal of capturing the maximum in pre-season bookings. Afterward, they hope predictions of what will sell come true and generate re-orders. It's a fascinating business—one that can soar or sink based on minor changes in brand perception.

Some brands carry the same basic styles year-over-year and can easily track fluctuations. But for most, continual change is the norm, and disruptive changes in retail have created major challenges to forecasting and identifying trends.

You may not be able to dodge or head off all disruptions, but you can boost the agility and resiliency of your business and brand. In that way, when disruptions happen, you can pivot and adapt more quickly.

To help you out, try to monitor several key metrics to build, gauge and retain a robust brand.

1. Contribution by Category

Look at your revenue by merchandise category. Is it well-balanced? A solid brand with styles across multiple categories should be selling fairly consistently over time. Track season-to-season and same-season-to-prior-year. Major shifts that can't be explained by changes in consumer demand could indicate room for improvement in certain categories.

2. New Channels

Expanding to new channels is critical to growing your market share. Track new retail locations season-to-season and year-to-year. Examine the trends and geographies. An omnichannel approach used to be a nice to have, but it is now essential for many brands. Move from bricks and mortar to clicks and mortar. And eCommerce offers its own set of subchannels, including brand websites, marketplaces, social shopping and more. Whether you are an emerging or established brand, , note that the trend is more important than the number. If growth is flat or localized, dig deep to understand where your customers are shopping, why they are shopping and expand your channels to meet them where they are.

3. Retail Mix

Look at retailers carrying your products and examine how well-represented your brand is in their overall merchandise mix. Is it more than the previous year? Study retailers targeting your primary customer base. Is your share growing? A steady or increasing percentage share is a positive indicator for the health of your brand—even if overall sales at a particular retailer are down. But if your position in the department is shrinking, your brand is losing ground. You need to understand why to make the necessary adjustments.

4. Margins and Markdowns

Every retailer takes markdowns, and most rely on their manufacturers to make up for lost margins. It's part of the business. Look carefully at your markdowns: Are they on specific styles or more generally across the line? Examine markdowns by fabric, concept and visual design: Is there a common thread? Track maintained margins across the line and by category season-to-season, year-over-year. Are you trending up or down? And remember: Looking at what didn’t sell is just as important as what did.

5. eCommerce vs. Bricks and Mortar

Track sales of your brand by category online vs. bricks and mortar. If you're not keeping pace with the overall growth in online sales, consider altering your sales strategy to target more online and omnichannel retailers. Examine your consumer direct online sales: Are you growing in pace with overall online adoption? If you don't have an online direct to consumer strategy, you should strongly consider investing in this additional distribution channel.

6. Closeouts

Overstocks and closeouts are inevitable. Lost sales, inaccurate forecasting and shifts in demand all lead to closeout merchandise. Study your trends over time. How eager are wholesalers and off-price retailers willing to take your excess merchandise? Do you have growing stalled inventory in your warehouse? Is it more than last year, the year before? How heavily discounted does it need to be to sell? If you have a warehouse full of stalled merchandise you can hardly give away, you need to take a hard look at why.

7. Team Attitude

Your salespeople and buyers know the business. They go to all the shows, they network, and they know the trends: What's selling and what's not? What's their attitude toward your brand? Are they visibly excited about your new collection and proud to represent your line? Those in the business are the first to know (and often by intuition) when you have a winner or when things are on the wrong path. Create a method to gauge, track and carefully examine the feedback from your team.

The right data and analytics will help keep your brand competitive. When presenting new designs and collections to retailers, it is imperative for companies to use a B2B eCommerce solution to streamline the buying and selling processes. With BlueCherry® B2B eCommerce, brands can simplify and completely customize their wholesale process and track the necessary key performance metrics to ensure retail success.


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