Steps in Merchandising
· Fashion Forecasting - Studying the fashion forecast along with the designer
· Sourcing - of fabrics- mill made, power loom, handloom, woven, knitted etc and trims such as interlining, buttons, labels etc.
· Buyer Communication - Getting information about customer profile whether be a distributor, retailer or exporter, domestic or international
· Enquiry and Sampling
· Pre-Costing - Calculating the fabric consumption and estimating the cost
· Order confirmation and acceptance
· Order Review
· Planning and Programming
· Accessories Sourcing and Purchasing
· Cutting and Production
At every stage merchandiser has to co-ordinate with all the departments and follows up at every process. Buyer has to be intimated about the day-to-day progress of his order and merchandiser has to ensure quality at all stages of production.
Fashion Forecasting is the process of analyzing and predicting the future trends for the upcoming season in the industry. It is very important because without it the manufacturers and retailers would not be able to produce and sell the goods. Raw material manufacturers have to be ready before one year for the selling season. Whereas apparel manufacturers and accessories manufacturers have to be ready by 9 – 12 months ahead of the selling season and retailers should prepare them at least 3 – 4 months ahead of selling season. So without forecasting these players cannot prepare and produce the right kind of style, design and type of materials.
Fashion forecasting can be done through various sources which could provide numerous information about the future fashion trends like colour, style, silhouette and designs. Some of the sources for forecasting are fashion magazines and bulletins, websites, TV channels, fashion predictive services, sales records and consumer surveys. Effective forecasting depends on how all the available information is processed analyzed and interpreted using the forecasting techniques.
Materials and production sourcing are critical to the success of an apparel firm. Sourcing is procuring of materials and production at a specified quality and service level. It involves a series of planned management decisions that includes merchandising, production, and marketing managers. Decisions are based on product requirements, production capabilities, lead time, and quality. A basic decision in sourcing is either to produce or buy the desired product.
Making involves producing the fabric, components, and finishing the products in the firm’s own production facilities. Buying involves contracting with another firm to produce the product. Make -or-buy decisions arise as the result of the development of new products, need for specialized equipment, unsatisfactory supplier or contractor performance, and increase or decrease in demand for established products.
After identifying a prospective buyer the next step is to communicate with those buyers. Communication may be through letters, fax or e -mails. A formal letter includes detailed profile of the company, address, contact details, production details, total employees, product details, existing buyers, annual sales turn over, accreditations, infrastructure etc. It should be followed up till the company receives a prospective enquiry from the buyer and consequent order conformation. An exporter should prepare to cover the overhead expenses that would be incurred during the initial stage. After getting the approval, the exporter would send samples and enquiries for future business relationship.
Requisition sent by buyer asking price details of the product which they want to place the order is an enquiry. The general content of the enquiry may have the details of garment style, fabric, colour and assortment and proposed order quantity. An enquiry received from the buyer may not be the confirmation of order placement. So the buyer will ask for samples of their enquiry along with the price before confirming the order.
After receiving an enquiry from the buyer the merchandiser has to do the pre-costing for the product which is mentioned in the enquiry. Pre-costing is the process of estimating the tentative price for the product. While doing costing various factors like style, fabric, colour and design, order quantity, current exchange rate and accessories have to be taken into consideration. The document that communicates all the details about a garment inside and outside a company is Specification sheet. After pre-costing, it is sent to the buyer as a reply to his enquiry. The importance of costing depends on its degree of accuracy and the quick response to the buyer.
Buyer will confirm the order, after the approval of fit sample and the price. It will be in the form of order sheet or purchase order from the buyer. It should be in a proper format duly signed with the office seal of the buyer. After receiving the order sheet, the exporter has to read it carefully and confirm the order acceptance by duly signing the order sheet along with the office seal of the exporter. Then the copy of the same should be sent to the buyer. It is always advisable to start the order after receiving the Letter of Credit (L/C) from the buyer.
Order review is going through or reading the order sheet carefully to check for the particulars with that of enquiry for any variations and also requirements of the particular order.
The order sheet have details like the quality requirements, packing details and accessories details. The merchandiser must check the quality, requirements and note down the important instruction regarding label placement , wash care and spelling of words. Any discrepancies in the order sheet should be informed to the buyer at the initial stage itself and should be corrected before the commencement of the production. This is an important activity which would help in efficient and effective follow up and execution of the order.
Planning includes the time that calculation and scheduling of the order lead time. Planning include master planning and scheduling or critical path. Programming involves decision making, on certain activities in a particular order.
The total time required to complete the order is estimated. If not necessary alternatives to execute the order in time is also planned. The target date for shipment is set before master planning. The target date is normally set one week to ten days earlier than the delivery date mentioned in the order sheet. Yarn purchasing, fabric production, processing, cutting, sewing, checking, ironing, packing, final inspection and shipment departments need to be consulted regularly to know the progress of all these activities. Their available capacity details should also be noted. If the final inspection date falls on the target date then the order can be shipped in given time. If not, then the revised planning should be done by outsourcing or increasing the capacity levels for various activities.
Scheduling or Critical Path
It is the activity of giving time schedules to the various departments based on master plan. It will be in a table format which tells about the process sequence for a particular order and their corresponding schedules or timings or dates for each process from date of order confirmation till shipment. It consists of two main columns namely Planned and Actual. If there is any deviation in the planned and actual dates, then revised planning has to be done. The scheduling is also called as “Route Card”.
Apparel manufacturing involves a combined network of various activities like raw materials, purchase, knitting , weaving, processing and sewing. The decision on when, what, where, how and who has to be made for all these activities. Programming is the activity of deciding all these activities.
Sample is a product which represents a group, lot or batch. The quality, style, fit, design, workmanship or any other characteristic of the product are noted in every sample. Based on the samples the buyer gives approval or comments for any alteration in design or style or quality. Samples may be made before the start of the production or can be taken from the finished goods. For every order or style, separate samples are to be made. Different types of samples like original sample, offer sample, fit sample, proto sample, photo shoot sample, salesman sample, and size set sample, preproduction sample, production sample, shipment sample, fabric sample, accessories sample and document sample are made in apparel export.
Accessories can be generally classified into production accessories and packing accessories. Production accessories are the ones which becomes the integral part of the apparel. Packing accessories are those used in packaging of the apparel product which may be individual or bulk packing. If the accessories have to be purchased domestically from the exporters supply, then it needs approval from the buyer. If it has to be purchased from the suppliers abroad, the process need time. So accessories planning should be done at the earliest.
Inspection is the visual examination or review of raw materials, partially finished components of garments and completely finished garments in relation to some standards specifications, or requirements. Here the garments are checked for the required measurements.
The principle involved in inspection is the early detection of-defects, feedback of this information to appropriate people. This helps in determination of the cause and ultimately correction of the problem. It is done under three sections namely raw material inspection, in-process inspection, and final inspection
Raw Material Inspection
Fabric inspection is usually done on fabric inspection machines. Defects in a fabric can be seen readily with these machines, as the inspector has a very good view of the fabric and the fabric does not need to be reversed to detect the defects. These inspection machines are either power-driven or the inspector pulls the fabric over the inspection table and check the defects.
Inspection is done in between any process or in between any sewing operations. This may be in half finished (or) semi-finished stage. In – process inspection includes flip checking, patrol inspection, pre-final inspection and 100% Inspection.
Inspection done by the operators or by its assistance during the sewing operation before the garments are bundled.
Inspecting activities of a particular area or line. It is called as line supervision.
It is done by the final Inspection merchandiser or QC or both can do pre-final Inspections. After pre-final Inspection garment are send to final inspection. After final Inspection only, the decision of passing or rejecting is made.
Inspection should be done 100% in the Inspection center.
First time inspection of the packed merchandise goods is called original inspection. It is a random inspection done according to the customers individual required standard after the shipment have been completed packed and ready to ship. Colour appearance, workmanship and style will he checked against the customer’s specification.
After fabric is received, certain properties of the materials are measured or evaluated using certain instrument or equipments. This process is called as Testing. Generally properties such as GSM, dimensional stability or shrinkage, pilling, streaks, lines, colour matching, strength and weight are tested before the production process.
This is a crucial stage in the apparel manufacturing process. Changes or problems cannot be rectified once the cutting process is done. So one has to make sure that certain things are completed or approved before proceeding the work. The following should have been approved before proceeding for production. This includes Size set samples approvals, Accessories, In-house Testing reports and Fabric inspection reports.
The apparel manufacturing involves combined network of various complex activities. In order to ensure the optimal execution of the order certain approvals are to be obtained during manufacturing process. They are
· Fabric approval
· Garment sample approvals at different stage
· Accessories approval
· Colour, design approval
· Packing approval
· Quality approval
· Quantity approval
· Time extension approval
· Factory approval
· Document approval
Packing should be done in accordance with the requirement of buyer as individual or bulk, type of packing material, number of units in each carton. The carton boxes are checked for the following points:
· Total number of cartons and their code numbers
· Shipping marks
· Packing slip details like order number, style name, number and other assortment details.
· Carton packing check like checking the method of packing, type of end joining.
· Number of carton boxes selected for inspection
Shipping marks are the symbols or logo which are given by the buyers and are to be printed on the carton boxes for easy identification. Besides the shipping marks the carton box should be written with the details of order which may be printed on the carton box or may be pasted with the packing slip.
Shipment is the process of expediting the goods to the buyer through proper means of transport so that it reaches the buyer safely and on right time. The most common means of transportation are by water, air, road or combination of these. Products are also transported by courier or post.
Various procedure and documents have to be prepared before shipment.
Every person importing or exporting goods requires an importer – Exporter Code Number (IEC). The export of goods is controlled by certain rules and regulations. Export of goods may require Export license, forwarding and clearing agent, shipping order, customs formalities, Excise clearance, Insurance, negotiation documents etc.