Guest editorial: On my own

Be careful what you wish for…

By Lenor Romano

On my own after a divorce, I quickly discovered I had a lot to learn. Not about being single, mind you (although being married three times did not allow much single time in between), but about EDI, UPC, logistics, shipping, factors, PO financing, pick tickets, credit, invoicing, returns, etc. etc. etc. Wow! I went to design school, not MIT. Because my recent ex (or rather his staff) had handled all that stuff for me (we were, after all, “partners”), I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

So here I am. I used to be amazed when I saw one of my designs being worn. That meant that I chose the right colors, got the right yarn, the samples made it to the MRket show on time, the buyer showed up for his appointment, ordered the garment, it got manufactured and delivered, and a consumer actually liked it enough to purchase it and wear it on the day he was going to be in my line of vision. Whew!

But so much goes on between those steps! And learning, I’m learning, can be very expensive…

  • How about shipping 150 shirts for $3,000 dollars from Morocco because the DIM weight was a number I never knew to consider… Duh!
    n Or not knowing that the shipper and warehouse want to get paid net 10 but your customers want net 60?
  • Or that just because you shipped it, doesn’t mean they’ll pay you for it. I actually had one store reorder several times in season because he was doing so well with the product, only to find out eight months later he still hadn’t paid me for the first shipment!
    n The factory says I must order six pieces of a size and at least 50 of a color or they won’t accept the order. Try explaining that when your customers wonder why they didn’t get that one size small or single XXL. I am forced to buy sizes that I don’t need and not receive sizes that I do!
  • The warehouse says if you don’t fill out a pick ticket correctly they’ll send it back to you with little explanation on how to fix it. So the goods don’t ship on time. Then they lose the pick ticket file and your customers call wondering why you’re past their cancel date. Ouch!
  • If you miss this date, your customers send you the box back with the letters L A T E sprawled all over it, and while you’re on the phone pleading with them to accept the one style that came in late because the factory had to replace the eighth color in a nine-color jacquard, they actually want to reorder another item! If your goods arrive a day past the cancel date and business is good, it’s okay. But if business is bad, watch out: it’s all your fault!

Then suddenly, you have an epidemic! Sweaters procreating like bunnies, behind your back, consuming your cash flow like lettuce, leaving you piles of inventory and no place to walk… Oh, and did I mention that you have to be nice to the warehouse too, or they reject your business and you’re forced to ship the last 2,000 sweaters from your office/showroom/studio? Yep.

Is this what I wanted to do? Why? There is stress at every turn! I wanted to make decisions with integrity and honesty. To create beautiful things for men to wear. To do everything I could to ensure that the product shows up in time, fits well, feels good, and makes the wearer feel confident—which is half the battle with men’s fashion.

The odds for success are minimal, for failure, great. But it’s calls like the one I got recently that make it all worthwhile. A self-described “regular guy” phones me and says, “I can’t find your beautiful sweaters in a store near me, so I thought maybe, just maybe, I could come to your showroom? I have to be in the city today anyway…”

I was about to say no, but looking around the room at 2,000 piled-up sweaters and several late boxes, I smiled and said, “How soon can you get here?”

Lenor Romano owns men’s knitwear brands Lenor Romano Collection and LenieR. She can be reached at info@lenorromano.com

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