Photograph by: Patrick McHugh

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Stop Thinking Local

The Fashion Press in Ireland are pro-active and encouraging, they paint London Fashion Week in the best light possible to encourage our young talent. The reality though is our fashion practitioners struggle on the other side of the pond. If we live on an island so close in proximity to the worlds fashion hubs, London and Paris, why do they feel so far away? We have a very active fashion industry but the man or woman on the street and the world at large are oblivious to the efforts of the Irish Fashion Industry? You may argue that we have a few shining stars on the international stage, but lets be realistic…

I notice an overriding issue with fashion designers and retailers… a tendency to ‘think local’.

The core issue may lie in who we perceive as our competition. We look over our shoulder for the competition, we see them as our contemporaries. In the fashion business it can be those who went to the same college or work in the same city. My clients often refer to their competition on a first name basis, as they often know them personally from social circles.

Are these people really competition?

From experience I can say they are not, in fact if you completely ignored them you may be better off. You are in fact suffering from tunnel vision.

So who are the competition?

Study any ‘High Street’ and you will see brands from all over the world, cast your eye in any magazine, advertising campaigns are not limited by national borders, look on the street, people are not shopping ‘local’. They are influenced by television, the web, by the media in all it’s forms. IKEA, Panasonic, NEXT, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger are now local brands. These are your competition.

The Size of the Market

Statistics published by Forbes Magazine show that 8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first 18 months. One major cause of business failure pointed out by Forbes – operating in a limited market size for your goods or service, in other words are their actually enough customers available?

You can have the best product or service, but if your target market size is limited to the point you can barely cover operating costs, you need to step back and start looking outside of the box. To be successful in this demanding economy it is necessary to think globally.

Today, politics, technology and logistical services have eliminated borders, it is possible to penetrate new markets, the size of your operation is no longer an issue. Around 40% of the world population now has an internet connection. In 1995, it was less than 1%.So now there are more than 3 billion people with Internet access. The number grows every minute… every hour.

No one will argue, if you offer goods or services you now need to be well represented on-line. Globally most small businesses do not trade on-line effectively yet, this of course is changing rapidly. To put it in perspective, trading on-line still offers massive potential,especially if you now trade in a small market, for instance in the U.S. alone, e-commerce sales will reach $400 billion in 2016 according to a Forrester Research forecast and it is expected to grow by about 40 billion dollars per year.

An Engaging On-Line Presence

Every evolving business needs a thoughtfully branded, well designed web presence which engages potential customers.  Remember the objective of your website is to generate revenue, this can be in many ways, not necessarily direct e-commerce. Customer service, product galleries, opening hours, and location maps all help to drive sales.

Trading internationally is not as big a jump as you might imagine, in fact if your business is retail based it is already in the international arena. I will give you an example…

I have mentioned the ‘High Street’, let’s take a business perceived as ‘local’, a Fashion Designer based in Ireland for instance…

The Global Marketplace

Let’s say they are stocked on some of Dublin’s eminent shopping streets. Who is the competition? The answer comes swiftly…local, national and global brands are all stocked on the same shelves as their products, so obviously their competition is international. So,this fashion designer is already operating in a global marketplace. Then ask yourself …is it a huge challenge for them to move globally and stock the same offerings on-line or physically in Birmingham, Hamburg, or New Orleans? These markets have a similar dynamic, if you can break Dublin, you have potential to succeed elsewhere.

First learn success on your own ‘High Street’, then confidently cast your eye across the water…

Stop ‘thinking local’, look a little further.