The Flip Side of the Retail Industry

Have you ever wanted to know which trends and looks would be hot before they even happened? This summer, I learned all about next spring’s hottest trends for young women (Tip: Be on the lookout for very girly, lacey feminine pieces and lots of soft bohemian prints and fabrics).

I interned at Appareline Incorporated, a wholesale women’s apparel company in New York’s garment district. As an avid shopper, I thought I knew the retail industry, at least from an informed consumer perspective. As it turns out, I knew very little about the tremendous planning and strategic development that took place before a product reaches the shelves.

Cope dress designed & produced by Appareline Photo Source

Urban Outfitters is a primary client of Appareline, and being a fashion-conscious teenage girl with a slight obsession towards Urban Outfitters, I could not have found a more interesting client to work with over the summer. After all, I am their primary demographic.  As a Sales and Marketing intern, I attended trend-analysis and development meetings, wrote reports, and negotiated transactions with buyers, I also made several trips to Urban Outfitter’s headquarters in Philadelphia to discuss product refinement with buyers before pieces went to production in factories in China and India. I was introduced to the complicated business of fabric selection and pricing.

As a shopper, this was my most disappointing discovery. The discrepancy between the cost of the clothing and the retail price was almost absurd. I can no longer look at the price tag on clothing the same way.  In one example, the buyer wanted my boss to make a women’s jacket that would retail for $99 but delivered to Urban Outfitters for $17. Crazy margins.

The garment district proved to be full of surprises, and I was able to learn about an industry most girls my age are oblivious to. My next goal is to find an internship as an assistant to a buyer at a well-established retailer, so that I can learn the business from both the fashion and business perspective. Do you know of other industries with such high margins?

– Jenna Link

5 thoughts on “The Flip Side of the Retail Industry

  1. Terrific experience for any young person. Ask this question to the US company: do the people making the product in that far away land earn enough money to live in a basic home with running water and electricity, eat a healthy diet, have kids that go to school every day, and have as good medical care as their counterpart in the US? If not, then we should not buy from them. It’s that simple.

  2. There are organizations that expose the working conditions in outsourced companies throughout the world. We, with my work in politics and you, with your studies are too busy to research this, but at some time it needs to be done. A scholar will do their own research on what they see, hear or read. Do you think the Chinese partners who heads the factories Appareline works with can be ANYTHING but adamant about fostering a healthy, positive work environment and that he believes this to be a crucial part of a successful business model? He has to say that, but it is your, or those organizations, responsibility to find the truth. This is important Jenna, making money is one part, ethical business is just as important. YOU can make the difference by leading us to companies that do both. Look up Stonyfield Yogurt for a truly ethical and successful business model. Or the products from Africa produced by the locals, sold throughout the world, that support villages. There are many examples, I just do not know many of them, but you could start or join organizations that check, find, and market companies that produce global products that insure their workers fair earnings for their country. The coffee industry now has several companies, like Starbucks, that only purchases the beans from ethically and fairly priced markets. I am proud of you, you are very special!

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