Okay, so I think I need to fill a few of you guys in with what's going on at the moment with our little fashion label. A lot of you are probably quite confused.
- Why does the shop keep shutting?
- Why do they keep running out of styles?
- Why do they keep discontinuing items?
- Why can't they bring back this piece?
Some people have been really negative, saying that we don't care about our customers, that we're not organised, and that we need to get our act together.
So let me do some explaining... :)
Here are the facts:
1. We care about our customers A HUGE AMOUNT! That's why we have to shut the shop.
Most of our sewers, packers, and customer service girls are sharkies themselves, so they genuinely care about other girls who are buying stuff. We lose sleep at night if we feel like we're not on top of orders.
Seriously, you have no idea how much the peeps at BM do to keep Black Milk going. We have had several incidents where people have been really sick but come to work anyway because they really want to get their work done. A lot of people come to work early, stay late, and cancel appointments because they really feel the burden to get the work done. I don't ask them to - they just really believe in what we're doing.
However, we are victims of our own success. The growth of the community has meant that a huge amont of pressure comes on us to keep up.
Of course the solution is obvious, when demand outstrips supply prices go up. Whether you're selling oil, cars, or flowers, that's how it works.
That's where things get challenging - because I'm not willing to put our prices up. I would feel like I was excluding lots of sharkies who are struggling to buy a lot of our stuff already. So we shut our shop instead.
And so we sell ... nothing.
For those who feel critical of the way we run our business, think about that - we would rather sell nothing than put our prices up and hurt some of our customers.
As for the next claim, that we are disorganised. Can I just say that no company in the world can easily keep pace with the kind of growth we experience every month. We're selling clothes - not MP3s!
And we sell more clothes in the first minute of a release than we did in 2 entire months last year. It's not like we're taking holidays and chilling out while peeps are waiting for their stuff.
We also make all the clothes ourselves. It's not like we just go out the back to a container from Shanghai and pull out another box! For most of us, clothing manufacturing is a 'faceless' thing. Containers magically turn up from overseas filled with clothing (even though we know that they are made for a few dollars by a labourer in the third world). It's important to remember that these clothes are made by real people. :)
The last issue that I should mention is that we are not 100% independent. We have suppliers - and many of them are just not set up to deal with the kind of growth that we experience.
Very often we have telephone conversations that go like this:
"Hi, we are trying to get some of these...."
"Yes, we stock them, we have twenty five in stock. How many would you like?
"Well.... we have twenty five."
This is a horrible, horrible fact - you can't grow faster than your suppliers. Australian suppliers in the fashion sector are not set up to deal wth explosive growth - because explosive growth is so rare. Manufacturing is shrinking in Australia. The growth of China has meant that most Australian apparel industry suppliers have downsized, or gone out of business completely.
So we get pressure from all sides:
When we don't sell stuff, we get pressure from girls who are GOING TO DIE if they can't get item X.
So we sell item X.
And when we do, we get pressure from girls who are GOING TO DIE waiting for item X.
So we have to close the shop because hundreds of girls are waiting for item X
And when we close the shop we get pressure from girls who are GOING TO DIE unless the shop opens again.
I can't win! Whatever I do, I am leaving a trail of dead female bodies.
The good news is that we have some big plans for this year adn some really awesome stuff is on the way. :)
Internet hugs for all.