Zoë Damacela is a dynamic, young entrepreneur that we'll be following in 2013. She's a NFTE (National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship) alum whose business plan for Zoë Damacela Apparel took top honors at the Chicago Citiwide Business Plan Competition and placed second in the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

We'll follow Zoë through this blog as she manages her business and juggles school and other responsibilites.

Comparative shopping helps me keep my customers


Retail (fashion in particular) can be challenging because your customer is constantly bombarded with reasons not to purchase your product. Even the most loyal customer doesn't shop exclusively at one place. And consumers can be fickle. In my case, my millennial customer has notoriously low brand loyalty.

To help me understand my customer, what she's seeing in the stores and what she's sizing my collection up against, I devote a day (or a half day), every month to competitive shopping. This is my day to shop! I visit 10 or 12 competitor's stores and look at these key design and selling elements:

While I'm out there, I make sure to look at what's on the sale rack (what's not selling is as important as what is selling), take note of current promotions and listen to what customers are saying. Then, when I'm back home, everything is organized into a report that includes all that information and photos from the stores or their websites.

Customer trends

As I always say, it's really important for me to know my customer. Before I comp shop, I look at sales research and demographics to understand my three customer categories:

  1. Ahead of the trend
  2. Behind the trend
  3. Right on trend

If my customer is ahead of the trend, I would shop high fashion and luxury brands. If my customer is behind the trend, I would shop discount and big box stores. If she is right on trend, I would shop at fast fashion stores.

This gives me an idea of how my assortment compares to the competition, but it also gives me inspiration and ideas for the next fashion season. When I go to aspirational brands, I'll make note of what is selling out and incorporate that idea into my collection.

Over the years, I've found that comp shopping is one of the most important parts of my job. Not only do I and my assistant designers do this, but my employees and interns in almost every part of the business do too. The same format is utilized by our social media team, web designers, tech designers, marketing, etc.

Comp shopping ensures that our customers are receiving the right product at the right time through the right channel at the right price point. And honestly, who doesn't love shopping?

The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of EY. Moreover, the views should be seen in the context of the time they were expressed.