For many years I designed a line of womenswear and sold it in my own boutique and other specialty stores and department stores (Sak’s, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s). Being on both sides of the selling process was fascinating. It became pretty clear that what goes on in the mind of a retail buyer is NOT what’s happening in a designer’s head.
I used to do trade shows, (Coterie, for instance) and I’d get a booth selling my line while simultaneously sneaking off to see other collections to purchase for my shop. I’ve created and viewed gazillions of line sheets. Some of them were great and some not so great.
Let’s start with what a good line sheet includes:
High quality product photos or sketches
Minimum orders (if you have minimums)
Case pack info (if applicable)
Vendor name and contact info
Your line sheet has one main goal – to communicate to the buyer everything they need to know to place an order right now, without having to contact you for more information. If the buyer looks at your line sheet and still has questions, you risk losing an order. In fact, “contact us for more information” is the kiss of death.
Here’s how it goes for buyers.
They’re busy. REALLY busy. The level of detail and daily stress on a retailer is pretty intense. As a designer, I was busy and stressed sometimes too – but it ain’t nothin’ compared to the buying process.
Orders get written up at trade shows, back at the hotel, on the airplane, late at night, in the middle of the chaos of a boutique at the front desk, while the kids are napping, etc. It’s not always an organized experience. OK. It’s hardly ever an organized experience.
As a buyer, there were times I’d be writing orders at midnight and needed to get the numbers placed TONIGHT. If I had a question on a line sheet, many times I simply didn’t order from that collection.
There are always other product to buy and more line sheets in the pile, so if I got stumped and it wasn’t a good time to reach out or I simply didn’t want to (which is very common), I would move on to the next designer who had clearer line sheet.
Honestly, a line sheet is a little bit boring. A lookbook is more styled and cool – editorial style. A lot of people want their line sheet to look like a lookbook and that’s a problem because they simply serve different purposes. The fact is, buyers don’t buy from lookbooks. They buy from line sheets.
Your line sheet is not the place to express your creativity. The new designer clients I work with struggle with this and I always tell them to be as kindergarten clear as possible, no frills.
There are 3 things missing from most designer’s line sheets.
Missing Thing #1: Your contact info on EVERY PAGE
It’s not enough to put your contact info and delivery dates on the cover page. I know from experience that pages often go missing from a buyer’s packet. It doesn’t matter if it’s digital or a hard copy. I can’t tell you how many times I’d tear off the page I wanted to keep for reference, only to realize weeks later that I had no idea who the vendor was or how to place an order. So even if your sheets are stapled together, put your company name and info on every single page.
Missing Thing #2: Your purchase order
You can simplify a buyer’s experience by attaching your own P.O (order form) to the back of your line sheets. If you’re attaching line sheets to an email, make the last page of the packet your order form. Some buyers still like to print things out and fax orders in. It also goes back to the buyers are super busy and placing orders at weird times in weird places thing…
Missing Thing #3: All the info on the list above
Make sure everything the buyer needs to know is on that line sheet. I know you THINK it’s clear. Just last Thursday I hosted a group coaching session where I did line sheet reviews. The designers in the group had just taken my course and STILL made mistakes.
One of the designers was missing delivery dates (Fall 2017 is too broad)
Another one was missing the name of her brand. The logo was there (her initials) but who’s going to remember what S-T stands for?
The 3rd designer had a beautiful line sheet but the pricing made no sense. His necklace photos were great, and under each one the price was $150. I KNOW his prices are not that high so I asked about it. Turns out they were pre-packs – 6 styles for $150. He’s better off listing each piece as $25 and making it kindergarten clear that they come in packs of 6.
Here’s the thing…
It’s hard to proofread your own stuff. Like Les Brown says, “You can’t see the picture if you’re in the frame.” I recommend you show your line sheet to someone who’s NOT familiar with your collection and see if they understand it. Show them the checklist above and make sure they “get it”. This way you’ll have your best shot at getting an order.
I hope this helps you make a rockin’ line sheet. Buyers WANT to work with you! They just want you to make it easy for them. Now it’s YOUR turn. Did I miss anything? Do you have a question about line sheets that I didn’t cover? Just leave a comment below and let me know!
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