"My Shoes Speak Italian... a classic tale of the pursuit of fashion career happiness, told by yours truly" 
- M.S.S.I. Creator, Megan Burkham
How To Start Your Own Business. Part 3 - Understand Your Market

How To Start Your Own Business. Part 3 - Understand Your Market

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Conduct Your Own Market Research

Having decided that you want your own business, your principal goal must be to do whatever is required to make your business succeed. First things first, you've got to understand your market (aka your target customer).

Look Around At What Other People Are Doing

You need to steep yourself in market forces and the current climate within fashion. The glossy magazines are a reasonably good indicator of what the market is looking for but they are not all encompassing. Take note of all the journalists: you will want to know exactly who they are, what they like and how they write.  Trade magazines like WWD, fashion and business pages of the daily and weekend newspaper, as well as online sites such as businessoffashion.com, will provide you with the breadth of industry news in the US and globally. 

Dig Deeper And Get A Market Overview

5 Government Sources Of Market Data And Statistics That May Boost Your Market Research Efforts:

1. Business Data and Statistics from SBA.gov

A good place to start is SBA.gov’s Business Data and Statistics page, where you’ll find a collection of resources providing free access to information about business and economic conditions and indicators collected by the U.S. government. These sites include data and statistics on income, employment, trade, and manufacturing, and plenty more.

2. The U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau (www.census.gov) maintains a vast repository of information that is quick and easy to navigate, thanks to a variety of Data Access Tools. For example, with The American FactFinder, just enter a city and state and the tool will generate multiple options for viewing social, economic, household and demographic data for your town or future location.

If you like what you see but are not sure how to use and interpret the data, the Census Bureau hosts seminars across the country to help business owners learn more about business and industry data on the site. Learn more.

3. FedStats.gov

If you want data but don’t know which agency maintains or produces it, head on over to FedStats.gov. This no-frills data-driven site provides access to a full range of official statistical information produced by the federal government without having to know in advance which federal agency produces particular statistic. Data is available on wide-ranging topics, including economic and population trends, crime, education, health care, aviation safety, energy use, and farm production.

4. Small Business Statistics

Interested in statistics about how small business is doing? The SBA Office of Advocacy conducts and publishes its own research on topics such as the small business economy.

5. EconomicIndicators.gov

For briefings on retail sales, durable goods, manufacturing, construction, new home sales, and more, Economicindicators.gov provides access to daily releases of key economic indicators from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau. This is probably your best bet if you're looking for one site that says it all.

Hit The Streets!

It is vital you visit all the major department stores and key specialist boutiques in your area. Of particular importance are the designer departments in the large stores such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom's and Saks Fifth Avenue. These will give you a feel for the ways in which stores buy designer labels and merchandise them. Choose your moment and chat to the sales staff to find out what sells and why. In my experience, sometimes one finds that the 'looks' which are raved about in style magazines remain on the racks while the old favorites continue to sell by the score.

Fundamental Research Should Also Be Carried Out Online

You Should Keep A Constant Monitor On The Following:

  • Blogs form an essential means to research trends and keep up with this community of online fashion influencers. 
  • Even if you do not want to actively participate in Twitter, it is a useful to keep up with the fashion community’s conversation and breaking news. Follow M.S.S.I.: www.twitter.com/ShoesSpkItalian
  • Style.comWGSN and Stylesight are both trend report resources.
  • Keep a tab on key online boutiques, just as you would conduct your research of the major department stores. Net-a-Porter.com and ASOS.com are just two examples of leading boutiques which only operate online.

Brand DNA

From your market research, work out what your unique selling point will be. This is vital in a highly competitive and over-supplied womenswear market. Your USP should be a combination of your own instinct and skill and will be a vital element to your success.

It may be that you intend to address an under-developed market (these are fast disappearing). You may believe you can produce something which is entirely new, your own 'recipe'. Your market research should tell you the sort of stores that you should be competing with; they in turn should give you some information on your target audience. Most importantly, it will establish the competition you face.

Feel like you understand your market? Great! Look out for my next post: Part 4 - Understand Your Market.

This is the third in a series of articles on How To Start Your Own Business.

Part 1 - Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Fashion Entrepreneur?

Part 2 - Finding A Business Mentor

Part 3 - Understand Your Market

Part 4 - Create Your Business Plan

Part 5 - The Scary Stuff: Legalities, Licenses, and Permits

Part 6 - The Scary Stuff Cont.: Loans, Grants, and Funding

Part 7 - Getting Your Name And Product "Out There"

Part 8 - Finding Your Voice And Professional Style

Part 9 -  5 Rules For Making Your Business A Success

Part 10 - Helpful Web Sites And  Resources For The Fashion Entrepreneur

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