How SMBs Can Tap Into the Fall Fashion Hype Now

Fall Fashion Month, from New York to Milan to Paris, is all about haute couture, the biggest fashion brands and glossy magazines. But just because small businesses aren't showing new lines on the major runways doesn't mean they can't tap into the frenzy around the big September catwalks. Here are a few simple tips on how merchants can leverage the hype around Fashion Month to grow their sales around the world:

Fashion is forward – by six months. On Sept. 10, 2015, designers will kick off New York Fashion Week for Spring 2016 fashions, showcasing the trends that will be worn a full six to eight months after they are actually shown. Die-hard fashionistas will be ahead of the curve ordering early, but many only start embracing these trends when it's actually spring – meaning you have a solid six months to re-vamp your stock with apparel and accessories that embrace the soon-to-be popular trends for spring.

Staying current is important for any business, but when you're selling accessories and clothing items it's important to continually update and refresh stock and styles. Fashion Week styles and trends mark are a perfect time to take a look at where you can offer new pieces and designs, and how you can incorporate a new style. Embracing new fashions doesn't have to be a painful process either – it could be just re-creating a popular selling item in a new color or slightly altering clothing silhouettes to be on-trend.

If you are ready to go (or ready to wear) with fashions or products you already know will be big in Spring 2016, spruce up your site and target customers across the globe where it's already Spring in their countries. Not only can you get a jump on selling your Spring products, but growing your customer base outside of your country can help keep you busy all year, no matter the season. And if you're finding the prospect of selling abroad daunting, resources such as PayPal's PassPort site provide tips for navigating international customs rules as well as insights into which countries are ideal to sell into for the season.

Make what's old new again. Fashion is cyclical, and old trends re-emerge every season. For vintage sellers, Fashion Week is a great time to go through inventory and pick out pieces that are spot on for the season's trends to showcase. One way to help highlight vintage or second-hand pieces that are on trend is to create a simple look-book filled with items for each trend, or updating product descriptions slightly to mention which trend each piece evokes. Not only can this approach show shoppers a new side to an existing item they otherwise may have passed by, but it also helps to keep your website fresh and feature pieces that may have been lingering in your inventory for a while.

One merchant that has found incredible success in the vintage re-sell sector is Fashionphile, an online platform for buying and selling pre-owned luxury handbags and accessories. Owner Sarah Davis has grown what was once a grad student side-business into a full-scale enterprise, bringing in $50 million in revenue last year. Fashionphile is now the largest re-seller of handbags in the United States, and the company has seen its sales grow tremendously by selling cross border: international orders now account for about 20 percent of sales.

A bonus benefit to having foreign buyers (something that Fashionphile knows well): many countries have limited access to high-end vintage and second-hand items, so playing up the two-fold benefit of a hard-to-get vintage item that is also en vogue can help you catch the eye of foreign shoppers and ultimately increase sales. The data bears this out: a 2014 global survey found that cross-border shoppers spend twice as much as other online shoppers, so this is definitely a customer group to target.

Depending on which countries you're targeting, you can sweeten the deal by offering the best deals on shipping – there are various shipping calculator tools available online to help you reach overseas buyers. One of the main pain points for online shoppers purchasing goods internationally is shipping costs, and 47 percent in this survey said free shipping would make them more likely to purchase. Some shipping calculators can help you figure out how to offer the best rates, or where you can afford to offer free shipping for a minimum purchase amount to help entice shoppers to hit "buy."

Don't let untimely cash-flow ruin your revenue potential. Accessing funds to fuel your business by increasing inventory or hiring seasonal help for select events such as Fashion Week is now easier than ever. Non-bank lenders are offering services that provide working capital almost instantly upon approval. Using smarter lending technology, the application processes have been minimized (especially when compared to traditional bank loans that can take days to apply for) and sometimes credit checks aren't even necessary. Be sure to read the full terms carefully and make sure you understand all fees associated with the service in addition to how repayment works so you can tell if it will work for your business.

Think global. As fashion is inspired by cultures all around the world, there is a huge opportunity to sell the very products from a merchant's home country that are on the runways this fall. Whether designers are offering up Japanese-inspired dresses or beautiful fabrics and patterns from India, merchants can increase their revenues by focusing on selling everyday products from their country to foreign buyers for whom these products are hard to find or inaccessible in their local markets.

As director of global merchant and cross-border trade initiatives at PayPal, Melissa O'Malley is responsible for for defining and executing global programs that help millions of consumers and merchants to conveniently and safely shop and sell in the 203 markets where PayPal operates. 
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