Family businesses are quite common in the apparel industry, due to their unique history. Up until around 120 years ago most clothing was handmade. Machines could do some work, but pieces were often sewn together by sewers and tailors. Off-the-rack clothing was not available until the late 19th century and this is when entrepreneurs (often tailors and their families) opened stores and kept them as privately-held businesses.
In fact, many of the specialty stores we have worked with over years are multi-generational businesses, and they are some of the most successful players in the industry. They often bring deep knowledge of style, fabric, and fit, and have strong relationships with their vendors.
Most importantly, they have won the trust of their customers who rely on them to help design their public image. When you think about it, allowing someone to help dress you is a very intimate interaction. How we dress projects our personalities, values, and social class.
These multi-generational businesses also tend to have tighter relationships with fashion designers and marketers, allowing them to leverage the popularity of this multi-billion-dollar industry.
For many family enterprises the apparel business can be very lucrative. But there are some challenges. We usually see these when the business is being passed from one generation to another. Sometimes it is hard to transfer all of the knowledge and expertise of the older generation in an organized way. That’s when we are often contacted to put plans and processes in place. We then tend to become the trusted third-party experts who help guide both the business and the family in their retail endeavors.
Through these experiences we have learned that the checkbook for the business and the checkbook for the family are often on the same shelf. Some store owners prioritize the business over the family while others do the reverse, but in all cases they are closely connected.
These situations can be delicate because although the business is there to support the family, the family needs to prioritize the business for it to be successful. It is a balance, but with clear goals and guidance in place, family businesses are usually successful.
If you have a family enterprise and you would like the support of third-party experts who appreciate the unique advantages and challenges of your position, please contact us. We are a family business ourselves, and look forward to creating another long and strong relationship with your family.