Former Big-Box Fashion Buyer Talks How to be a Retail Success

Syama Meagher- CEO of Scaling Retail Calling all boss babes and lovers of fashion! Brandboom interviewed Syama Meagher, the CEO of Scaling Retail, a former buyer for numerous high end brands and a successful leader in the fashion retail sphere and let’s just say, what we learned from her is worth the read.

Who is Syama?

When Syama was just nine, she found herself writing school papers on Macy’s markup strategy – not your usual middle schooler. Her curiosity for the buyer, seller relationship and her desire to understand the business of fashion stuck with her until she started working for Macy’s herself. “I remember one of my very first experiences, I was at Macy’s and I was responsible for the allocation of 20,000 red sweaters and I remember, I thought that I have the power to dictate where these 20,000 red sweaters are going and the price point and I had this moment where I was like ‘oh my god this is the world.’ I feel like once you have that experience you know you’re in the right industry,” Syama said.

What is Scaling Retail?

From that moment on, Syama worked to make herself an expert on retail strategy. She now has more than 10 years of experience in launching brick and mortar stores and eCommerce experiences. Talk about impressive. With her knowledge, Syama decided to spread the love and created Scaling Retail, a consulting firm for global fashion and retail brands. “When I was working on the retail side of things I remember being pitched by so many young brands who were just getting started in the industry, who had very cool products and ideas that really failed in terms of business modeling and planning and execution,” Syama said. “So this company was really born out of the need to be the business side for a lot of these small to medium emerging market brands.”

From Idea to Brand Success

Thanks to Syama and Scaling Retail, brands like indieSWIM, Rhode Resort, Aquarelle Maison, Lily Lark and many more are now becoming players in the fashion world. Through programs and support that Scaling Retail offers, these brands were able to go from idea to success. “We help our clients with their cash flow planning and sales strategy. We also work with client’s marketing strategy as well as the deployment of those marketing activities like digital marketing, direct marketing, we do company naming, we also do brand positioning all of these things,” Syama said. Keep reading, because Scaling Retail’s services don’t just stop there. “We even work with brands who are scaling up. We have clients who started making $250,000 a year wholesale and they’re now almost up to 2 million just a few years later. It’s really not just the startups we work with, it’s really growth based businesses and medium sized businesses under ten million. We really know what it takes to survive,” Syama said. According to Syama, Scaling Retail is different from the typical agency. Instead of focusing solely on the creative side of a brand, Scaling Retail looks at a creative strategy in terms of the product and the gross market planning and determine how a company can actually make money. For them, it’s all about marketing. “What we do is we really approach all of our brands from a marketing perspective and traditionally in the industry we would have most companies that say, “Hey let’s do product development, let’s come up with our design and then let’s figure out how to sell it and then let’s figure out how to market it.” But we flipped the script and we say, “Alright guys what are the campaigns about? What are the stories about? Who are we talking to? How are we talking to them? And then we look at the products and the price points and the sales channels that are really going to support these market campaigns,” Syama explained.

How Strong Is Your Brand Intelligence?

Having been on the buying end of the spectrum after working as a buyer for brands like Gucci, Syama learned some important tips that sellers should live by when trying to get noticed. First and foremost, Syama says brands have to realize that buyers are people too. “I think that for people who are trying to pitch buyers, there are major things that really turn buyers off. Number one is they think the buyer is a foreign alien. The worst thing I would get would be emails like, “Hi, my name is x and I do this,” and it’s like I know what your name is, it’s in the email,” Syama said. “People get so weird about pitching and one thing to remember is that we’re all on the same team, we’re all trying to get the right product for the right price for the customer. There’s this element of all being on the same side that I think is important.” Once you stop talking like a robot and actually interact with buyers in a normal way, it’s now time to really hone in who you’re even pitching to. “Too often I think as a buyer you just become a catch all for everyone. On the selling side it’s important to know who you’re talking to. If you don’t know who you’re pitching to then you’re probably pitching to the wrong person and that means that they’re not going to just forward your stuff onto the right person. It’s your job. You find the right person and you contact them,” Syama said. Outside of building relationships with buyers, over time Syama has seen first hand what sellers do wrong and how they could improve. “Number one is to understand your cash flow. Most of the time when I talk to brands they’re fashion hobbyists, they just want to try things out and are dipping their toes in the water. The problem here is that the market doesn’t respond to hobbyists. The market responds to passionate people who are invested in creating products and brands that communicate a vision and an identity. The problem with people who dip their toes in the water is that they haven’t allocated a budget and they’re just kind of playing around with it. To be honest, that’s the best way to go out of business because you never actually started one in the first place,” Syama said. Brands also need to stay on top of marketing. With a long to-do list, that what tends to slip away. “When it comes to marketing they need to be consistent about what their content planning and content messaging is. A lot of the times people are not thinking about their campaign, they’re not thinking about the overall brand voice, they’re just thinking about posting an image today. The thing they don’t realize is that 30 images later, you’ve created a brand voice whether you like it or not. If you don’t go into your marketing with strategy and planning, you end up with this very amorphous kind of crazy spider web of things that are going in all different directions. It’s not stable and it’s not sustainable. Every single piece of content should be part of something bigger and it should be reflecting your brand always,” Syama said. That includes social media. “Digital is everything,” Syama points out, yet it’s important for brands to remember that there is more to digital marketing than just running a successful Instagram account. “If you really want to be smart and next level, then you need to have a digital footprint and a live, in-person footprint. You’ve got to have that direct footprint and so that means doing your pop-up shop and getting your product in wholesale outlets, because you want to have a visible footprint that’s not just you selling stuff on your website,” Syama said.

Avoid These Mistakes

While gaining all of this knowledge, Syama has also had a front row seat in watching certain brands learn things the hard way. Luckily, her up close and personal experience with these failures has made it possible for her to spread the word on what brands shouldn’t do when it comes to their businesses. “The number one mistake brands make is wanting to do way too many things at once. People really want to be selling multi-categories, but they’re not thinking about how expensive of a financial investment it really is to sell multiple things,” Syama said. Another mistake brands make is when it comes to their online presence. “I also see brands that are just trying to put something out there. They think that if they post something it’s better than nothing, when really sometimes nothing is better than the something you posted,” Syama said. Money issues are also a main problem that many new brands encounter. “Brands that are just getting started hemorrhage a lot of money for things that are not necessary. Everything kind of comes down to money and strategy. I tell people that if they don’t have a lot of money, don’t try to build these really large collections. Instead, build a small collection and spend your money on marketing. The first 6-12 months of your brand you’re really hemorrhaging money on marketing and getting brand awareness and getting your name out there. You don’t need to have a big collection when you get started because people don’t know who you are. Speak to one person before you try to speak to 50,” Syama said. Now that you know the insider tips on how to launch and grow a brand from a highly successful fashion entrepreneur, it’s time for you to implement her ideas into your brand. Every brand could benefit from the wise words of Mrs. Syama Meagher
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