How to stimulate and improve the business productivity for a fashion agency
during their off‐season? ‐ A case study of the company “Me & My Brothers”
Bachelor of Fashion Technology
“International Fashion & Management”
A Final Thesis provided by
11th of May 2010 in Berlin
Student 500501321 of the
Amsterdam Fashion Institute
In cooperation with
Company: Me & My Brothers A/S
1st Reader: Mr. Joop Smit
2nd Reader: Mr. Henny Jordaan
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 2
Declaration of Originality
I, Carlo Zimmerman declare that this document is an original study based on
my own work and that I have not submitted it for any other course, degree or
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 3
This Thesis is the final assignment to complete my Bachelor Study in Fashion &
Technology with the underlying course Fashion & Management. It implies a
research project where the acquired knowledge and skills are used to research a
During my time at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute I gathered knowledge and
experience about the various aspects of the profession of a fashion manager.
However, from the beginning of my study until the end I was mostly interested in
issues such as a company’s corporate management, fashion marketing, micro and
macro economics and communication. Therefore, I chose a final thesis project that
is related to these aspects.
The main question of this research study is: How to stimulate and improve the
business productivity for a fashion agency during their off‐season? ‐ A case study of
the company “Me & My Brothers“
I would like to thank the Amsterdam Fashion Institute with its educational program
and encouragement for their students, my 1st Process Coach Mr. Joop Smit and my
2nd Process Coach Mr. Henny Jordaan for giving me both excellent advices and
Special thanks to David Si Said Norberg of Me & My Brothers A/S.
Christina Zimmermann, Thea Kolbe, Dr. Constantin Zimmermann, Dr. Juergen
Baumert, Florian Langer, Fabian Benz, Andreas Karle, Son of Light Records and
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 4
The fashion industry consists of two major business periods, the summer and winter
season. The period in between wholesalers, retailers and fashion agencies need to
operate during the ‘off‐season’. This period causes the fashion agency ‘Me & My
Brothers’ annually four months of less business activity and low profitability. The
intention of this study is to define competitive and profitable business solutions for
the fashion agency’s off‐season.
Me & My Brothers is a small upcoming fashion agency, consisting of one agent. The
agency operates in the Norwegian and Swedish market. A market with great
potential, due to its high spending capacity on clothing, the propensity for
diversified and trendy fashion and a substantial wealthy economy. Like for any
other fashion agency, Me & My Brothers main business is to acquire brands, to
make orders with retailers and shops and to sell and distribute the goods.
Generally, Me & My Brothers and other agencies handle the off‐season through
traditional, less profitable approaches. The focus is on company reputation and
image, customer relationship, replenishment or sometimes even the introduction of
midterm collections. Due to Me & My Brothers new entry in the business, its fast
market expansion and current low financial assets the entity has limited business
opportunities. How can this entity stimulate and improve their performance during
Currently, the entity’s most consequential and defendable position within the
market needs to be a differentiation strategy. Fundamental issues for the
company’s success are a contemporary cooperate identity, in terms of business
flexibility, substantial knowledge about fashion innovation and trends, customer
awareness and a portfolio of premium quality brands. Me & My Brothers is forced
to differentiate through, competitive, innovative and unconventional approaches by
always regarding the balance of its operational scope to its operating ability.
A distinctive field research in retail shops, interviews with fashion experts and a
literature review developed the main findings. The aspects of diversification and a
strategic and competitive management are essential in order to differentiate. The
research and analysis of the operating market and its customer’s mentality allowed
defining competitive opportunities.
A compelling opportunity for Me & My Brothers is to diversify its product scope
with fashion accessories or associated fashion products. The months April, May and
December, of a fashion agency’s off‐season, highlight the busiest shopping periods
and should be used to introduce competitive and diversified products. The study’s
final recommendation comprises a framework of the most appropriate and
competitive tools with regard to the agency’s individual resources and ability.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 5
Table of Contents
Declaration of Originality
Introduction of the Research
Case Description/Problem Definition
Methodology and Study Area
Who might be interested in this report?
Mission and Vision Statement
Norwegian and Swedish Market
The Buying Mentality
Nordic Intercultural Dimensions
Market Analysis Relevance
Buying Behavior and Promotion
Aspects of Secondary Sources
Aspects of Primary Sources
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 6
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Introduction of the Research
The problem definition discussed in this thesis arose while having a conversation
with a Swedish friend of mine who established his own fashion agency, a year ago.
This entrepreneur has been working in the fashion industry for eight years and is
using his knowledge, experience and network to finally establish his own business.
His fashion agency ‘Me & My Brothers’ acquires known and unknown brands for
men and women. Those brands do not have an insight in the Norwegian and
Swedish market. Therefore, they need an expert who communicates and sales their
collections in the unknown market. The fashion agency’s job is to acquire brands, to
make orders with retailers and shops based on their brand portfolio, to sell these
collections with a substantial margin and to distribute the products.
This fashion agency is very active during the periods when the spring‐summer or
autumn‐winter collections are presented to the industry and trend analysis, sales
forecasts and orders have to be made. However, once all the orders and supplies
have been done for the according season, wholesalers, retailers and fashion agents
need to operate during the time of being “off‐season”1. Currently, Me & My
Brothers business activity during April‐May and November‐December is
considerable low. The goal is to stimulate and improve the fashion agency’s
business activity during those months of weak productivity.
What is it that this fashion agency might do to become not only more productive
but more competitive and profitable during that time? The methodology and study
area for solving this matter consist of assumptions and solutions based on different
research methods as a primary source and literature research as a secondary
source. The literature review examines theories on how to conduct a business in
general and theories especially adaptive for the fashion industry. The advices and
recommendations on the problem focus on scientific theories of marketing
effectiveness and the defining of new opportunities.
My solutions take into account aspects such as the buying behavior, the importance
of marketing research to strategic planning and the importance of demand driven
management. I investigated on how to gain competitive advantage by creating and
sustaining superior performance and how and through which tools other more
established fashion companies conduct their business.
1 off‐season: a time when business etc. is slack, see: Della Thompson, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current
English: Ninth Edition, Oxford University Press Inc., 1995
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 7
In order to support my argumentation and the feasibility of the literature theory the
research includes interviews with Nordic fashion agencies and fashion experts in
marketing. An intense field research in shops and multi brand stores and a survey
are further tools to give solutions. Additional chapters comment on the fashion
company’s profile and the perspectives in the Scandinavian, especially Norwegian
market. A SWOT analysis of the company and its operating country help to clarify
the best possible recommendations.
Each chapter ends with an analysis or summarized conclusion of the most
significant findings from the chapter. The final recommendation of this study will be
a framework of marketing and management tools. This framework will give advice
and recommendations on how to improve the weak business performance and how
to overcome the problem off being off‐season.
1.2 Case Description/Problem Definition
The fashion agency ‘Me & My Brothers’ has annually four months of weak business
activity and productivity. There is a low turnover and business activity for this
fashion agency, during the months when the spring‐summer and autumn‐winter
collection has been sold to the clients. This problem definition is based on a
qualitative research interview with the CEO of the agency.
The fashion industry consists of two major periods, the summer and winter season.
Me & My Brothers is dependent on these two seasons, since their main income is
generated during that time. Annually this means around six efficient months of
work and nearly four months of less efficient work. The question is how to improve
this weak business performance or even how to overcome the problem off being
The discovered problem is an overall, more complex problem for any fashion agent.
In order to prove this assumption and to disprove the argumentation that the given
problem only exists for a small and upcoming agency the interview has been
extended. Other CEO’s of different fashion agencies with a competitive business
have been interviewed. These companies have a higher volume of brands, a higher
business activity and a greater annual turnover, but the same problem of less
business performance during the operating month’s off‐season.
For established and well‐performing agencies the amount of work during the off‐
season is still considerable high. It is simply a different type of work, like the
maintenance of customer contacts and new acquisitions, re‐orders to shops, and
other administrational work. This work during the off‐season is certainly important
and conducts business, however it generates less income.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 8
One part of the qualitative research interview was a self‐assessment on the
company’s business activity and productivity. The graph highlights the problem of
my graduation project.
Regardless the size and performance of the agency, there always will be a period
off‐season with less business productivity and profitability.
1.3 Research Question
The underlying Research Question of this Thesis is:
How to stimulate and improve the business productivity for a fashion agency
during their off‐season ‐ a case study of the company “Me & My Brothers”?
The underlying research question can be divided into the following sub‐questions:
Do other fashion agencies face the same phenomenon? How do they handle
How do shops, department and brand stores handle the off‐season?
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 9
What are the company’s threats that hinder them to get more competitive
and productive? And what are the company’s opportunities that help them
to improve their competitiveness and low productivity?
What are the operating tools and experiences of substantial and established
fashion companies to overcome low business performance?
What does the buying behavior and mentality of the target group in the
according operating country look like?
What about a market extension? Why not using alternative activities, like
the introduction of mid‐term collections to overcome the off‐season?
What kind of marketing and competitive management tools exist to this
particular problem and how about their feasibility?
These are the major objectives that help to formulate findings and
The profile and SWOT analysis of the chosen fashion agency Me & My
Brothers and its comparability to other small entities in the same operating
The SWOT analysis of the Norwegian and partly Swedish target market.
The experience of established and well performing fashion agencies with
regard to their operating tools.
Research and Investigation about the experience of retail shops and the
customer’s buying behavior.
Literature theories on fashion marketing in terms of strategic planning,
buying behavior, diversification and differentiation.
Theories on competitive management in terms of demand driven
management and findings of new opportunities by less substantial economic
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 10
1.6 Methodology and Study Area
The goal of the research methods, as a primary source, is to produce new
knowledge and facts. The methods of primary sources help to formulate
assumptions and solutions on the problem and support the feasibility of the
The projects approach and process of research is inspired by Ranjit Kumar’s book on
research methodology. How to formulate, conceptualize and construct a research?
How to collect research findings and how to establish validity and reliability are the
major aspects that have been taken into account. The manner and implementation
of the research has been applied according to Stainar Kvale’s theory of how to do
interviews and research in general.
“The attention is paid to the strategy of triangulation in qualitative research.”2
To determine the best possible outcome, the research has been done from different
angles with different methods and respondents. The research tolls are a qualitative
research interview with three CEO’S of Nordic fashion agencies and an extensive
investigation on the marketing experience of fashion experts.
Interviews have been made with the following people:
David Si Said Norberg, CEO of Me & My Brothers, fashion agency,
Jonas Sjöklint, CEO of Sjöklint Agenturer, fashion agency, Gothenburg and
Christian Aas‐Engelstad, CEO of Famous 2 AS, former fashion agency for
Tommy Hilfiger in Norway, Oslo/Norway
Johannes Bethge, Marketing Officer Nike Germany, Entertainment and
Marketing Nike Sportswear, Berlin/Germany
Furthermore, there is a field research with respondents of an executive function in
department stores and multi‐brand stores that cover brands which fit into Me & My
Brothers profile. In addition, there is a survey filled in by respondents working in
shops which have a comparable target market. Mainly the qualitative research but
also partly the qualitative research has been used.
“Both types of research are important for a good research study. Neither one is
markedly superior to the other in all respects. It depends on the purpose of the
2 Steinar Kvale, Doing Interviews, Sage Publications ltd., 2007
3 Ranjit Kumar, Research Methodology 2nd Edition: A step by step guide for beginners, SAGE Publications, 2005
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 11
One of the most challenging aspects by doing research is to use an adequate
attitudinal scale. It is from importance to use a research methodology that makes it
possible to combine attitudes towards different aspects of an issue by providing an
indicator that is reflective of an overall attitude. In order to comply with this aspect
the report’s research followed the summated rating “Likert scale“ in the most
“This scale is based upon the assumption that each statement/item on the scale has
equal ‘attitudinal value’, ‘importance’ or ’weight’ in terms of reflecting an attitude
towards the issue in question.”4
All the researches concepts can be divided into ‘start‐up’ questions with less
attitudinal value and ‘underlying problem’ questions with an equal attitudinal value.
The chapter 4.2 examines the applied research methods.
1.7 Literature Review
The literature review, the report’s secondary sources, indicates theories on strategic
and competitive management, innovation in fashion, buying behavior,
diversification and niche strategy. The books and articles especially focus on fashion
business but also on the overall business and economy.
Major findings on have been formulated with regard to the theories of Janet
Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp’s book on Fashion Marketing, Michael E. Porter’s books
on Competitive Advantage, David Mercer’s literature on Marketing and Tony Hines
and Margaret Bruce’s views on fashion marketing.
The mentioned literature review allows giving recommendations on how to conduct
a fashion business. The report’s advices and recommendations on the problem are
based on the theories, analysis and findings of the used literature. The chapter 4.1
examines the applied theories.
The entire report focuses only on the Norwegian and partly Swedish market. The
two Nordic fashion markets represent a rather narrow market segment with a very
individual business mentality. Therefore, it may be difficult to relate the applied
approaches and recommendations, of how to handle the off‐season, to other non
Ranjit Kumar, Research Methodology 2nd Edition: A step by step guide for beginners, SAGE Publications, 2005
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 12
This study gives answers in form of recommendation and findings on how to
stimulate and improve the business productivity for a fashion agency during their
off‐season. This overall question is basically aiming at fashion agents. The core
research and literature review focus on solutions especially useful for this small
fashion agency Me & My Brothers.
The study’s recommendations are applicable for small entities with less operating
alternatives than the more established companies with substantial economic
background. The study also epitomizes important marketing and management
theories that might be relevant and inspiring for any other fashion company.
Chapter 1, with its introduction of the research and problem definition, gives an
overview about the scope of this study and through which tools the problem will be
solved. The Chapter 5 concludes the entire research and the Chapter 6 highlights
the best possible and adequate solution and to which extend the problem can be
1.10 Who might be interested in this report?
This report examines aspects on how a fashion agency can conduct their business
and competitiveness, especially in terms of management and marketing
approaches. Moreover, there are findings about buying behavior and trend analyses
of retail shops.
What are alternative and adequate management and marketing solutions for weak
and less productive months? How does the traditional schedule and activities of a
fashion agency look like? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the
Norwegian and partly Swedish fashion industry? How is the consumer ticking with
regard to basic fashion products and associated fashion items? What are the busiest
selling periods of shops with regard to the retailer’s off‐season?
By taking into account these perspectives this report mainly serves fashion agents
but also wholesalers and retailers, regardless the size and success of the agency.
Moreover, I assume that this report might inspire small and upcoming fashion
companies that need to establish their business or brand through simple and low
cost marketing and management approaches.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 13
Chapter 2: The Company
2.1 Company Description
Me and My Brothers A/S, founded in 2009, is a fashion agency with its head office in
Oslo, Norway. The entity consists of the founder and main agent David, a co owner
and a part‐time employee. The agency is an incorporated company, indicated by the
A/S symbol. The company’s name derives from the fact that it has been established
by three brothers. The company is an upcoming fashion agency in the Nordic
market. Currently, the entity mainly operates in Norway and Sweden with future
plans to operate in Iceland, when a stable economy is given.
Me and My Brothers has the exclusive license agreements to sell certain brands,
with an additional sub‐agreement for the distribution. Due to its limited operational
and financial assets Me & My Brothers involved the Swedish ‘Sjöklint’ agency to
deal with the distribution part. For the latest acquired brand the company achieved
both exclusive rights for the selling and distribution part.
David has been working in the retail and fashion agent business for eight years and
contributes the major assets to the company. Currently, he is the only agent who
represents the company’s brands. The company’s network in the Norwegian market
is sophisticated and strong, due to the owner’s substantial knowledge, experience
and network. So far, the agency covers a diversified mix of eight brands for both
men and women. Me and my Brothers is represented at fashion fairs in
Copenhagen, Oslo and Berlin in order to keep up with trends and knowledge about
the latest progressive and contemporary fashion brands.
Me and my Brothers functions as a representative of its acquired brands. The
company is making orders with shops in Norway and Sweden. The company
acquires the collections to discounted wholesale prices and sells them to the shops.
The company’s income is generated through the quantity of orders they make and
the according sales margin. The core business is to communicate and sell their
brand portfolio to retailers and shops in the most substantial regions and cities in
Norway and Sweden.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 14
Within its first fiscal year, the company recorded a good annual turnover with a
considerable annual growth of almost 100%. With regard to the upcoming three
years a turnover growth of 40% for the following two years and a growth of 25% for
the third fiscal year are predicted according to the firm’s business plan.
2.2 Mission and Vision Statement
The mission of Me and my Brothers A/S is to establish a fashion agency with
creative, innovative and quality fashion products. The agency wants to become a
leading partner for producers, customers and employees. The aim is to strengthen
the position of their labels in the Norwegian and Swedish market and to work
closely together with retailers and shops. The company’s intent is to be profitable
and to generate a continuous market growth by always respecting the human
rights, labor standards and the environment.
Me and my Brothers act as entrepreneurs with the vision to continuously represent
a unique portfolio of leading edge brands. The company strives to extend their
impact on the Nordic fashion market and its market share. A substantial and
consistent market growth by always taking into account the fundamental values of
creativity, innovation and quality and its interdependency to the changes of the
market and its consumers is the core vision.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 15
2.3 Company’s Brand Portfolio
Me & My Brothers supplies over 50 shops in Norway and more than 25 shops in
Sweden with women and men ready to wear. This chapter provides a brief
description of each of the eight current brands of Me & My Brothers portfolio.
All brands have a different style with a slightly varying target group and price
segment. The portfolio covers a wide range of labels from sophisticated street wear,
urban wear and specialized denim to luxury casual fashion.
This diversified selection is done on purpose. It avoids a business competition within
the company’s own selected brands and they all stand for themselves. Me & My
Brothers has an exclusive distribution and sales license agreement with these
brands for the Norwegian market. The appendix1 includes graphical material of all
the according labels.
‘Nikolaj dÉtoiles’ is a luxury and elegant Swedish brand with subtle quality garments
only for men, in the high price segmentation. Established in 2006, this brand is a
rather new label on the market and is extending through sales representatives in
the Nordic countries and parts of Europe. The owners are well‐known
entrepreneurs with a great experience in the Scandinavian and International
fashion market. Nikolaj dÉtoiles uses their reputation in the Nordic market to
further expand. Due to its style the label is rather limited to a narrow market
segmentation with fashion conscious and fashion forward customers.
In 1999, ‘Steven Allan’, a New Yorker designer, started as a retailer with collections
for men and nowadays also for women. The brand is in the higher price segment
with collections known for limited edition fine cotton fabrics with a favorite old shirt
look and feel. The sophisticated clothes for casual wear address young and trendy
customers. Steven Alan has 10 brand stores in the United States and is represented
in over 300 stores worldwide.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 16
The brand is heavily marketed through international publications such as ‘Vogue’,
‘GQ’, ‘Figaro’, Italian ‘Vogue’ and ‘Uomo Vogue’. This label has a great profitable
potential, due to its already gained prestige and a rather broad market
segmentation oriented style.
‘Rivera Club’ is a new American menswear line from California. Rivera Club is a
volume brand with regard to its adequate price segmentation. The collection is
recognized as timeless, classic and casual day wear clothing. It embodies the
American beach surfer style. Their collections have a simple and stylish look in plain
colors. So far, there is no reputation about Riviera Club which gives the brand a
rather weak positioning.
‘Vintage 55’ is an Italian vintage clothing brand. The label was established in 2001
and stands for creative fabric mix in high quality standards. The brand presents
men's and women's clothing inspired by trends of recent past which still influence
the modern lifestyle. The label is represented in Italy with two flagship stores in
Milan and Florence. Moreover, Vintage 55 represents stores in Paris, Hong Kong,
Dubai and China. Vintage 55’s current performance in Me & My Brothers operating
market is at an average.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 17
‘Aeronautica Militare’ is an Italian casual wear brand with a sportive look. The
brand’s collections feature a fashionable military style of the Italian navy. Their
designs have a sportive style with insignias that characterize the Italian military air
force pilots. The label is known for the good quality of materials. Within the last
three years Aeronautica Militare established themselves in the Italian and export
market. The label is represented in six own brand stores in Italy and several multi
brand stores nearly all over Europe and Russia. The two missing countries are
Denmark and Norway. Due to the company’s interest and operating activities in
other countries there is a potential for market growth in Scandinavia.
The label ‘Cycle’ is a typical Italian denim brand for men and women. Cycle Jeans
was founded in 2000 in Padua, Italy. The brand stands for authentic and real Italian
made denim products. The street wear style collections have details taken from
knitwear, shirts, or even sweatshirts, combined with fabrics with classic weave and
patterns. The jeans and shoes products are Cycle’s best known items. The label does
not focus on own brand stores but on distribution through retailers, sales
representatives and agencies.
‘MET in Jeans’ was created in 1997 and since 2008 their jeans collections are only
made for women. MET collections are much appreciated for their decided style and
superior product quality which are designed and produced in Italy. The styles are
glamorous and fancy with thorough research into materials, wear ability, washings
and accessories. The determined style and perfect wear ability combined with a
prompt customer service are the main reason of their international success.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 18
Met in Jeans and Cycle belong to the same Italian distribution company and has an
intense marketing and media reputation in Italy. Met in Jeans market approach
focus only on business through sales representatives and agents without having
own brand stores. The brand represents Me & My Brothers second best selling
‘R95th’ is a Belgium volume brand for men and women launched in 2008. Currently,
R95th is the most commercial one and the most profitable brand of the Me & My
Brothers portfolio. The label offers collections with a vintage soul inspiration. Their
style is an untraditional interpretation of the authentic sportswear look paired with
comfort quality. The rugged vintage look, daring color combinations, surprising
details and catchy artwork are the factors that make R95th different. The brand
quickly established a good reputation in the international market, mainly through
retailers and agents. Currently, there are six brand stores in Belgium.
2.4 Annual Calendar
This part describes Me & My Brothers annual activities to conduct business. The
fashion agency’s main business to generate income is to acquire brands, to make
orders with these brands, to buy the needed orders to discounted wholesale prices,
to sell them with a reasonable margin and to distribute all goods. The graphs
highlight a fashion agency’s annual calendar with regard to the retail shops
FASHION AGENCY's Calendar
Acquisition and Order Phase
A/W Collection 2011
S/S Collection 2011
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 19
CLIENTS / SHOPS's Calendar
Delivery to the Shops
Traditional Selling Period
Selling S/S 2011
Selling A/W 2011
Traditional Sales Time Period
Sales A/W 2010
Sales S/S 2010
1st of January – 1st of April
Acquisition and Order Phase for Winter Collection: The fashion agencies establish
their portfolio of brands. Me & My Brothers contacts and negotiates with
international brands that fit into their portfolio. The company’s aim is to get the
exclusive right to sell a certain brand in Norway and Sweden. In January, Me & My
Brothers joins the fashion trade fairs in Europe in order to acquire new brands and
customers. Currently, most of the deals are done through the more established
Nordic ‘Sjöklint’ agency, which has a sub license agreement with Me & My Brothers.
Once, accomplished the portfolio of brands the fashion agency needs to contact
and arrange order deals with shops, department stores and other retail facilities
within their authorized area. In order to represent the acquired brand of the
portfolio to potential customers, each fashion agency buys a sample collection.
Based on these samples and the presentation and negotiation of the agent the
retail clients buy a desired quantity of items.
1st of April – 1st of May
Sample Sale: Due to fact that it is not permitted to sell samples in the regular retail,
M&M Brothers constantly organizes a sample sale in April. Although, the agency is
always only interested in certain styles of a collection, it still needs to buy the entire
brand collection in form of samples. Therefore, sample collections always include
strong and low fashionable styles. Moreover, the quality of the samples is often not
in consistency with the retail quality. These factors complicate the selling process.
1st of May – 1st of July
Weak Productivity: These two moths mark Me & My Brothers weak productivity.
Their portfolio for the upcoming winter collection is established, the order deals are
made, the distribution is arranged and all samples should be sold by now. The
agency only deals with customer maintenance and the replenishment whereas
additional profitable approaches are missing.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 20
1st of July – 1st of October
Acquisition and Order phase for the summer collection: The whole scenario as
described for the winter collection starts all over again. However, this period implies
less work, since M&M Brothers continues to work with its previous brands.
Although, the same amount of work needs to be done to get the order deals with
the shops, department stores and other retail facilities.
1st of October – 1st of November
Sample Sale: Once again a sample sale is made, this time for the autumn‐winter
sample collection. The same difficulties and limitations, as mentioned before for the
spring‐summer sample collection are given. However, the winter garments are
better selling products. This is simply because of the climate conditions in Norway,
where winter garments are more demanded.
1st of November – 1st of January
Weak Productivity: Again, two months of weak business activity, although there is
strong selling period for shops due to the Christmas time.
2.5 SWOT Analysis
The SWOT analysis is a common and concise strategic planning method to evaluate
a company’s business venture. I regard this analysis as a realistic and helpful tool for
Me & My Brothers business evaluation. It is an ideal starting point before
investigating and recommending findings on the project’s problem. Further
explanation on the SWOT analysis is in the appendix 2.
A young, motivated, flexible and engaged CEO. Almost all of his rivals in the
fashion agency business belong to a different kind of generation with a
different business mentality.
The CEO has more than 8 years of experience in the fashion retail and a
great network of contacts in Norway and Sweden. Especially experienced in
functioning as a salesperson, sales representative, customer and client
communication, trend foresees, business accounting and negotiation.
The company has a lot of potential brands for a start up fashion agency. For
instance, with only three or two weak brands in the beginning, it is very
difficult to build up a market and to maximize profits on a harmonic long–
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 21
Most of the brands are known and represented in Sweden, sometimes
Denmark and the rest of Europe. However, none of them is established in
Me & My Brothers has a low financial backup. There are insufficient liquid
assets to meet costs, in case several calculated orders are cancelled.
The company expands, more work need to be done, more manpower is
needed and more costs arise. The question is, if or when there is sufficient
income to meet these fixed costs.
With constant and satisfying performance there will be more profitable
deals with the brands, with regard to long‐term relationships.
Consistent regarded performance and reputation increases Me & My
Brothers market value. Brands are more likely interested to make more
attractive distribution deals with the agency.
The company’s dependency on the clients that make orders and the Swedish
agency that deals with their distribution part. If one of the two chains runs
into financial problems or does not pay their bills Me & My Brothers might
face a bankruptcy.
The competitors, other upcoming fashion agencies in Norway and new
brands on the Nordic market cause a rivalry, which is up to now on a
Most of Me & My Brothers 8 brand deals have a very short duration. Some
contracts last only for a period of 3 to 6 months, before they get extended.
The brands want a reliable performance before they extend contracts over
With a growing business the complexity and amount of work grows as well.
Me & My Brothers need to define the right point in time when to invest in
fixed employees, new business opportunities and an own managed
distribution channel. This decision making is a fundamental, risky and high‐
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 22
Chapter 3: Market Analysis
3.1 Norwegian and Swedish Market
This chapter about the Nordic market only takes into account some of those factors
that have a significant meaning on doing fashion business in the two countries of
Norway and Sweden.
Norway’s population is about 5 million people, with almost 400,000 km2 of
landscape and with a “GDP per head”5 of $53. In comparison, The Netherland’s
population is about 16 million people by 41,000 km2 and a GDP per head of $40.
Norway’s GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards is the second highest on
the European globe and the VAT differs from 12‐24%.
What does this mean? The GDP numbers provided by the “OECD”6 and the
“Eurostat”7 highlight the huge size of the country in contrast to its very small
population and their wealthy economy with regard to having the third highest GDP
worldwide. A substantial purchasing power and one of the best performing
international economies are factors that certainly help to do business in Norway.
The GDP figures can be found in detail in the appendix 3.
Gross Domestic Product per head/per each person of the country’s population.
OECD, Organization for Economic Co‐Operation and Development
Eurostat, Statistical office of the European Union
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 23
The capital is Oslo, the country’s biggest city with a population of almost 600,000
people. With regard to Me & My Brothers acquired retailers and shops the
company mainly operates in the southern and central part of Norway. Due to the
enormous landscape and distances between the cities the trips to potential
customers and shops are very time consuming.
Although, Norway is a Scandinavian country, it is not a member state of the
European Union. This factor gives Norway a unique economic and financial position
within Europe. For the fashion industry the most interesting factor about this
uniqueness is the country’s economic situation and its regulations. To the question
why Me & My Brothers is mainly operating in Norway, the Swedish CEO mentioned
that a compelling factor is the different tax regulation and the generally higher
margins on clothing.
The custom tax regulations and general tax system is different in comparison to all
other EU countries that have standardized regulations. All imports of goods have to
pay an extra custom tax of approximately 10, 7 %, except the goods have been
produced in an EU member state country. Moreover, all working Scandinavian
foreigners in Norway do pay 25% less taxes income for the first two years. The
standard taxation on income is 36% for earnings below approximately €65.000. All
earnings above 65.000 have a two‐way taxation. The residual amount of the total
income subtracted by 65.000 has a taxation of 50%.
The country has a mixed economy, which means that the economic system exists of
a variety of private and governmental control. At first place, retailers and brands
commonly focus on those countries that are within the European zone, with equal
tax and goods regulations. Why taking the risk to immediately enter an exceptional
country with a small business market that has more expensive tax laws, different
and changing regulations and an unknown retail mentality. Therefore, most of the
brands share this risk by cooperating with agents and insiders of the market.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 24
Sweden counts 9, 4 million people and has the largest population of the
Scandinavian countries. The landscape is 450,000 km2 big and the GDP per head is
about $37. Sweden is in the upper segment of the GDP per capita in Purchasing
Power Standards and the VAT is about 12‐26%. Stockholm, the country’s capital, is
the largest city with 830,000 people.
Unlike other European or Western countries is the Swedish industry dominated by
private investors. This is also one aspect why Sweden is ranked as the fourth most
competitive economy in the world, known for its creativity in doing business. The
confiding aspect about Sweden’s interest in fashion business is that a very small
country, with regard to its population, establishes constantly significant fashion
companies such as ‘H&M’, ‘Filippa K’, ‘Lindbergh’, ‘Nudie Jeans’, ‘Acne’ etc.
3.2 The Buying Mentality
Annually, the average Norwegian person spends 2547 Euro, Sweden 1552 Euro, The
Netherlands 1865 and Germany 1128 on clothing and shoes. These numbers are
according to each countries statistic household budget survey. In comparison to
other EU member states the two Scandinavian countries, especially Norway, have a
significant high spending capacity. For further information on this matter have a
look in the appendix 4.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 25
Statistics or other reliable approvals about the Scandinavian retail mentality are
difficult to descry. However, the three Nordic agent’s expertise on the Norwegian
and Swedish buying mentality offered information. The three CEO’s described the
Swedish and Norwegian customer as people who are really open‐minded for new,
unknown and small brands. The importance is the look, a decent quality and that
the label embodies a distinctive type of style, purely subtle leisure wear or a rather
luxurious style etc.
Especially Sweden is regarded as a trend setting country for fashion and overall
product design. Also Denmark is regarded as a fashion forward country but not
further taken into account since none of the agents operate in this country. The
interesting aspect is that Finland for instance stands in contrast to the mentioned
„Finish people are not that fashion oriented. They rather look out for clothing and its
functional purpose and tend to spend their money on other needs.”8
Norwegian and Swedish people dare to buy products that do not have yet any
noticeable reputation. This propensity does not comprise that marketing and image
are not important, it only highlights that these two groups of customers are easier
to convince with upcoming fashion brands. The agents told me that a prestigious
and respectable shop is an obvious and important factor for Scandinavian
customers to buy unknown attractive brands. Furthermore, their experiences
affirmed that the two Scandinavian markets are fast moving and very transient
Taking into account the interview with a marketing officer, German retailers and the
German customers have a rather conservative buying behavior. Examples have
been indicated where upcoming and unknown brands did a great and consistent
local marketing campaign, although those brands never really made it into the
shops. The German buying mentality of shops and retailers is too conservative and
deliberated on brand reputation. Of course, Germans buy new and unknown
brands, but they are certainly not the first ones on the market.
This mentality is in total contrast to Norwegians and Swedes and highlights how
different their retail mentality is. A striking example of the Nordic buying behavior
shows the denim industry. A Norwegian fashion agency that worked for Tommy
Hilfiger, confirmed that Hilfiger Denim stores in Norway or Sweden have a higher
variety of different jeans styles than for instance Germany or Austria.
8 Jonas Sjöklint, CEO of Sjöklint Agenturer, fashion agency, Gothenburg and Stockholm/Sweden
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 26
Hilfiger Denim shops in Germany confirmed that German consumers are mainly
only interested in one specific boot‐cut jeans style which has not been changing
over the past years. Whereas the two Nordic markets need to have more styles
such as slim, regular and boot‐cut fits due to their consumer’s varying demands.
The argumentation is that Scandinavians are interested in diversification and
variation of fashion products.
3.3 Nordic Intercultural Dimensions
With regard to my interviews I perceive Norwegians and Swedes as people who like
to express themselves among other things by fashion. It is easier to introduce new
fashion brands into the market. Moreover, I realized the importance and impact of
networking and socializing for Norwegian and Swedish business men. Interpersonal
relationship with wholesalers, retailers and shop staff, as well as the attendance to
all the European fashion fairs is a compelling part of the Scandinavian business
These assumptions also match with the theories of Hofestede’s Intercultural
dimensions. ‘Geert Hofstede’ introduced five significant dimensions how to
measure and summarize cultural differences. The power distance, a country’s
orientation to Individualism versus collectivism, the index of masculinity versus
femininity, meaning to which extent the dominant values are assertiveness, the
uncertainty avoidance index and the country’s perception of long‐term versus
short‐term orientation. Further in‐depth information on the five dimensions theory
can be found in the appendix 5 and 6.
Sweden and Norway are recognized as two countries with low power distance,
where “egalitarianism”9 but also collectivism are considerable high regarded. When
negotiating with retailers and shops it is form importance to be aware of the
countries mentality. In Norway and Sweden it is expected that power is distributed
equally to the followers as much as to the leaders of a society, which can be related
to their overall business mentality. The society’s ideology is that people look after
each other and that power is distributed in the most adequate equality. New entries
and business networking might be more manageable than in a country that stands
for a high inequality of power distance.
”All societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others”.10
Della Thompson, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English: Ninth Edition, Oxford University Press Inc.,
1995: egalitarian:relating to the principle of equal rights and opportunities for all…egalitarianism n. (French
égalitaire from égal equal)
10 Geert Hofstede, Cultural Consequences Second Edition, Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and
Organizations Across Nations, Sage Publications Ltd., 2001
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 27
3.4 Market Analysis Relevance
How and to which extent can the mentioned intercultural attitudes and retail
mentality influence Me & My Brothers fashion business?
“Fashion is the dress that is currently adopted.”11
Significant factors about selling fashion in the two Nordic countries have been
examined. Fashion depends on its social role according to the intercultural
dimension of the given country and its transience. The social role in Scandinavian
fashion is rather oriented to individuality and variety in fashion with very fast
moving time constraints.
Shops and retailers are more open‐minded to sell new and unknown brands with
regard to the Scandinavian buying mentality. Me & My Brothers covers a lot of
brands that are rather unknown and new on the market, since it is easier to get
deals with unknown instead of established brands. The impact of cultural context
and the understanding of consumer behavior are two tremendous factors for
fashion agents. The Nordic country’s cultural context and buying behavior allow a
high rate of adoption of new brands and diversified styles. The market analysis
verifies the two Nordic country’s tendency for considerate venture.
The Nordic country’s propensity to buy fashion is a great assistance to conduct
business. The susceptibility for new and unknown brands is rather low, which helps
especially small entities to promote and sell their new and attractive brands. The
countries have a high emphasis on interpersonal influences in the daily business and
set value on a consistent networking within their fellow business colleagues.
3.5 SWOT Analysis
This SWOT analysis of the Norwegian and Swedish market functions as an appraisal
of doing fashion business in this particular market. It helps the company of Me &
My Brothers to indicate their possibilities and restrictions in the market.
Norwegians and Swedes have high spending capacity on clothing and shoes.
Both Nordic countries are interested in diversification and variation of
11 Janet Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp, Fashion Marketing, Routledge, 1994
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 28
Both countries have a strong and continuing importance and reputation of
being trend‐setter in overall product and fashion design.
The transient nature of fashion is very fast and demanding in Norway and
Especially Norwegians have a high purchasing power and a substantial
wealthy economy. Also Sweden has a considerable high economy.
The inexperience and skepticism of foreign brands and retailers about the
two Nordic countries, especially Norway, quicken business co‐operations
with local entrepreneurs.
High emphasis on interpersonal influences and networking paired with the
country`s low power distance facilitate the business for new entry
Shops and retailers are very open‐minded for new and unknown attractive
The custom tax and general tax system is more complex and more expensive
than in any other European member state.
The Nordic fashion market in general might become too small for retailers,
shops and new brands. There is a small population and a relatively small
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 29
Chapter 4: The Research
4.1. Secondary Sources
‘Michael Porter’ argues that the selection of a defendable position within a
company’s operating industry is a tremendous component for a competitive
performance. Michael Porter’s three generic strategies imply that profitable and
well performing companies generally choose to either compete on cost leadership,
differentiation or niche strategy. Hence, to focus on a strategy of low cost
competency for a broad target market, to offer differentiated products and services
to a broad target market or to either focus on the lowest cost or to offer
differentiated products to a specific narrow market.
The crucial remark is that in order to be successful a company needs to focus on
only one strategy. By selecting several strategic options an entity is likely to lose the
focus on competitiveness and operational excellence. The risk is to get “stuck in the
A clear defined overall strategic ambition and position should be the starting point
for Me & My Brothers before methods can be defined on how to tackle the off‐
season. By defining that determinant Me & My Brothers seeks a sustainable
competitive advantage in its business.
12 Michael E. Porter, The Competitive Strategy, Free Press, 1985
13 Michael E. Porter, The Competitive Strategy, Free Press, 1985
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 30
Currently, the most efficient overall strategy for Me & My Brothers can only be the
“differentiation”14 strategy. The cost leader principle is mainly based on the
efficiency in terms of volumes in the production. Goods are produced at low cost
and target a large customer base. The principle is not applicable. A fashion agency
purely deals with the selling of brands. Agencies are not involved in the production
part, nor are they able to define wholesale or retail prices.
The principle of the niche strategy also known as segmentation strategy is to set
priorities on one or two narrow market segments and to become specialized in
those markets. This opportunity might be a possible positioning for the fashion
agency, but Me & My Brothers current brand portfolio consist of labels that attract
the broad market scope.
The strategy of differentiation positioning seems to be the most promising and
appropriate tool. Currently, the fashion agency stays competitive through unique
and qualitative products with consumer prices about the average and the
exclusivity of only supplying selective premium shops. In the initial phase, Me & My
Brothers is one of the weaker agencies in this market with less operational and
financial power. It is of little value to recommend Me & My Brothers complex and
expensive strategies to improve their off‐season, since the entity lacks the financial
and operational resources to implement them. This weakens the chances for the
company to overcome the off‐season, but it also forces them to implement
innovative and unconventional solutions.
Me & My Brothers differentiation strategy needs to concentrate on strengthening
their operational ability and its offerings. Moreover, the emphasis should be on a
strong company image, a superior service and a more efficient distributor network.
Monitoring the changes in market environment and defining possible trends are
crucial in order to differentiate. Especially, the off‐season is ideal to implement a
competitive action, since most of the rivals stick to business as usual and do not
Me & My Brothers uniqueness competency should be epitomized by the company’s
young spirit, flexibility and contemporary cooperate identity. Innovation, knowledge
about the market and its customers and the ambition to offer a premium quality of
brands are fundamental aspects. All these factors constantly need to be monitored
and adjusted if necessary.
14 Della Thompson, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English: Ninth Edition, Oxford University Press
Inc., 1995: differentiate: …make or become different in the process of growth and development, differentiation
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 31
4.1.2 Competitive Advantage
What is competitive management/advantage in fashion and how can it be applied
to the given problem?
“One of the characteristics of the fashion industry is its vulnerability to
With regard to the macro‐environment, there are always significant factors and
changes which affect the business industry. The fashion business is very susceptible
to changes in the social and business environment. Therefore, fashion managers
and entrepreneurs need to monitor changes on a regular basis in order to stay
competitive. Especially, in the fast fashion industry, changes are the only certainty
to rely on. The quicker a company is able to respond to certain changes the higher is
their chance of success in leading the market. The ability to quickly respond and
adapt market changes is an outstanding tool of competitive advantage.
Fashion agencies regularly need to follow up with the business, in order to predict
and buy what they think will be the most important trend and style for the
upcoming season. Agents need to know about the current and changing culture and
mentality of the operating country and the buying behavior of its target group. This
changing market environment is summarized in the respected PESTEL analysis
model. It tells to take into account political, economical, social, technological,
ecological and legal factors on business decisions.
In case of case of Me & My Brothers, my comprehension of the analysis and
implementation of a competitive approach is to find a business opportunity for the
off‐season, which is profitable and competitive oriented by taking into account risk
and innovation. Due to the problem of low productivity and profitability within the
off‐season months, Me and My Brothers needs to analyze these months carefully.
What kind of fashion do people need in April, May and December? What kind of a
period is it and what are the environmental conditions? What kinds of garments or
accessories are demanded for the upcoming season?
The fashion agency should be urged to interview its shops and the according
customers about possible problems that they might solve. The fundamental
principle is to define the need and competitive force for this specific period and to
provide this need on a quick or if possible immediate supply response. The principle
is applicable for both weak periods that the fashion agency faces. Most fashion
agencies regard the off‐season as a less profitable time and focus on conventional
actions that maintain or conduct business by only a few less profitable attempts.
15 Janet Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp, Fashion marketing, Routledge, 1994
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 32
Like in any other business, the fashion agency industry sticks to their traditional
procedures, by relying on customer affiliation, doing re‐orders or maybe
implementing midterm collections. The answer to competitiveness is to become
the leader and innovator of your market and to think out of the box.
“Companies achieve competitive advantage through acts of innovation. They
approach innovation in its broadest sense, including both new technologies and new
ways of doing things. They perceive a new basis for competing or find better means
for competing in old ways.”16
Due to the agent’s expertise, their intense contact to clients, stores, retailers and
fashion fairs they should be the ones who have an insight in what shops intensively
need during those months in spring or early winter. Doing research and asking the
clerk, managers and clients in retail shops about their experience. Why are shops
running out of stock and what are these products? What is that is always sold out
every new season? What is that drives the customers about a particular item? The
aim is to define the products which are commonly demanded every new season,
acquired in advance, on behalf of the research findings and to provide these
products for immediate supply. For any fashion company the underlying question
should be how to get more competitive, with regard to each company’s individual
financial assets and operating possibilities.
Due to its dimension Me & My Brothers needs a competitive tool that is relatively
low cost expensive and manageable in implementation. The mentioned approach
involves a lot of risk but also a lot of competitive advantage, linked to profitability. I
perceive it is from importance to do a qualitative and quantitative research in their
operating market with a following evaluation. This has been realized through a field
research and can be seen in the research findings of the primary sources.
4.1.3 Buying Behavior and Promotion
„Fashion is a way of behaving that is temporarily adopted by a discernible
proportion of members of a social group because that chosen behavior is perceived
to be socially appropriate for the time and situation.”17
Fashion is extensively linked to social trends. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
and Janet Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp theory of a reference group are strategies on
how to motivate and stimulate people to buy a company’s product. The hierarchy of
needs implies social and esteem needs which need to be fulfilled and function as
motivational forces behind the consumer’s purchase of fashion.
16 Michael E. Porter, The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Free Press, 1998
Janet Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp, Fashion Marketing, Routledge, 1994,
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 33
The theory of a reference group is that a group of people or an individual person
provides reference for the consumer in the formation of values and attitudes, which
in turn affect the buying behavior. A reference group focuses on the social and
“Human needs extend beyond basic physiological drives; they also provide the
consumer with the motivation to buy. Understanding the motivational drives can
help fashion designers and marketers alike to target their products more
The major incentive to attract attention and custom of a product is to promote it. At
this particular point of the economic cycle, meaning the off‐season, Me & My
Brothers needs to adopt a more proactive stance. Due to the company’s financial
and implementation potential the operating promotion tool needs to be low‐
budgeted and manageable. Making use of the buying behavior of customers by
implementing a promotional tool of a reference group is a feasible method.
Currently, Me & My Brothers sells their samples mostly to friends or advertises an
ordinary sample sale in their showroom. This procedure is an easy and fast
approach and done by other fashion agencies as well. However, Me & My Brothers
procedure is not very effective and productive. Established fashion agencies have a
better profit rate with their sample collection selling. They have been using this
approach over the past years with a substantial database of potential customers,
which is the missing link of Me & My Brothers agency.
The idea is to make use of the fashion agencies sample collections in a more
efficient and effective manner by promoting the garments through an aspriartional
group. An aspirational group embodies esteem in the society and help in the
widespread adoption of fashion items. Inform and persuade the customer and
determine their decision making process is the overall idea of this approach. This
principle is based on the AIDA model. Awareness, interest, desire and action are
compelling promotion stages.
“The customer must be aware of the existence of a style…the customer is interested
in more information…the customer is involved in an active product search.”19
With regard to Me & My Brothers limitation of operational assets the strategy
needs a minimal complexity with a long‐term consistency. Promoting your company
and some of its brands through an aspirational group, by them wearing your
garments, is basically a simple a low cost approach. This approach tackles two levels
of the fashion business, the trendsetter market which influences the mainstream
consumer market. The challenging issue is how to create a reference group’s
interest in promoting your garments.
18 Janet Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp, Fashion Marketing, Routledge, 1994, quoted in Curran 1991
19 Janet Bohdanowicz and Liz Clamp, Fashion Marketing, Routledge, 1994, quoted in Curran 1991
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 34
In order to attract, a brand with fashion forward and innovative styles is required.
Sample collections are the first garments on the market and can be worn several
months before they get into the stores, which creates a further value. Already
gained prestige, media attention and brand reputation in other countries are
The garments are not given away to some random influencers. In order to build up
authenticity and consistency the influencer’s or regarded group’s overall image and
fashion style need to be in line with the actual promoted brand. Promotion that
does not have consistency regarding the actual brand image and the image of its
promoting tool can even damage a brand. Me & My Brothers need to involve the
actual brand and it’s marketing for cooperating and supporting the promotion.
“By the end of the day, it is most likely the image/marketing that persuades the
customer to buy a product. They have an image in their head that drives them.“20
A fashion agency can contribute a great deal to drive the customer’s aspired image.
How can a fashion agency stay competitive during their weak months of
productivity and conduct business with regard to profitability? One of the most
powerful competitive tools, which is widely used in the fashion industry, is based on
Igor Ansoff’s Product Market Growth Matrix.
‘Ansoff’s Matrix’ helps companies to consider ways how to grow their business and
performance. The tools focus on growth in volume and profit. Volume and profit is
what the fashion agency Me & My Brothers is aiming at in its initial stage of
existence and during the off‐season period. The Product Market Growth Matrix
recommends conducting business through market penetration, market
development, product development or diversification.
20 Johannes Bethge, Marketing Officer Nike Germany, Entertainment and Marketing Nike Sportswear,
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 35
“The four alternatives are simply the logical combinations of the two available
‘positioning variables’ (products and markets).”22
In terms of Me & My Brothers, the company needs a concept or a product which is
new and distinctive compared to a fashion agency’s traditional goods. The market
development tool is rather difficult to realize for a fashion agency. The market
penetration, entering existing markets with existing products and the product
development, entering existing markets with new products are already part of the
The residual “diversification” 23 principle is for a fashion agency certainly the most
competitive approach. The fashion agencies industry is really traditional in its
business of being purely a seller of fashion garments. I realized that most of Me &
My Brothers competitors stick to a ‘business as usual’. Why not diversifying the
scope of products?
“Diversification, the quantum leap to a new product and market involves more risk,
and is more normally undertaken by organizations which find themselves in markets
that have limited, often declining, potential…However it can be a positive move to
extend the application of existing expertise…But be aware of diversification which is
undertaken simply because the grass looks greener in the new market.”24
Analysts describe that there are two types of diversification, namely the related and
unrelated diversification. Me & My Brothers should remain in a market or industry
with which they are familiar. Therefore, the related diversification strategy is the
logical and adequate tool.
Igor Ansoff, Strategies for Diversification, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 35 Issue 5, pp.113‐124 (1975)
David Mercer, Marketing Second Edition, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1996
Della Thompson, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English: Ninth Edition, Oxford University Press Inc.,
1995: diversify: make diverse, vary, modify…expand the range of products handled, diversification n.
David Mercer, Marketing Second Edition, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1996
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 36
The idea is to supply your customers with associated fashion products or lifestyle
products related to fashion. Brands such as ‘Nike, Puma, Diesel, Levis or H&M’
already introduced over the past years products in cooperation with other
companies that focus on lifestyle trends and innovation. Brand stores, multi brand
stores and ordinary fashion shops start to sell more and more lifestyle gadgets and
If the fashion agency’s acquired brands do not offer products based on the
diversification principle, one simply needs to reach out for alternative products. The
mentioned aspects of being diversified can touch the company’s business surface or
its fundamentals. This determination depends on the attitude and degree of
diversification and most of all on the resonance of the customers.
The product diversification scope might include the jewelry and watches industry,
the eyewear and fragrance industry or electronically devices. What is important of
Me & My Brothers diversification approach is that the chosen product is still an
associated product of the fashion industry. Any other product orientation would be
too farfetched. In order to define an appropriate product with success potential the
fashion agency needs to research and analyze its operating market before launching
a new product. Inspiration and trends for a certain product can be taken from other
fashion and lifestyle oriented countries such as Italy, Brazil or Japan.
"I am a businessman now as the first thing that comes to my mind is to utilize
resources. I have learnt this from my father and I feel that the design fraternity
should know how to utilize resources because it gives value to the product."25
The entire interview can be seen in the appendix 7.
This entrepreneur shows an approach of a diversified and competitive product,
namely a product that adds a value additionally to its overall function. In the initial
stage of launching such an innovative and trend associated fashion/lifestyle product
there need to be a minimum or no rivals at all who focus on similar products. By
pursuing a strategy of diversification the fashion agency introduces a certain
element, product on the market that customers recognize as a new, meaningful and
creative fashion or lifestyle product. The diversification approach focuses on being a
quality, marketing or service leader by innovative products which help to distinguish
a company from its rivals.
Raghavendra Rathore, Diversification key to survival in fashion world: Raghavendra Rathore, Hindustan Times,
Shilpa Raina, Indo‐Asian News Service, New Delhi, March 21 (2009)
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 37
This idea of overcoming the off‐season by diversification is an inherently risky
strategy, because Me & My Brothers business is moving into a market and product
segmentation in which it has little or no experience. However, it can conduct
business on a profitable short‐term perspective with the option to long‐term
success if the associated fashion and lifestyle product finds its way to the
Furthermore, I perceive for a fashion agency the importance of this tool lays in
analyzing its outcome. Is it a purely marketing or a profitable tool, with a rather
qualitative or quantitative outcome? Is it pushing a brand’s reputation and prestige
or increasing the sales turnover? A purely marketing orientated tool is not the aim,
since Me & My Brothers business really depends on actual sales turnovers. In order
to show the feasibility of this diversification approach, this study introduced a field
4.1.5 Aspects of Secondary Sources
The most efficient and defendable position for Me & My Brothers is the
differentiation strategy, due to their broad market scope oriented brands
and their rather low operational and financial power.
Strengthening of the agency’s operational ability and its products by
minimizing the current operational scope or reinforcing the operational
ability is fundamental.
The current strategy of competitiveness through unique and qualitative
products with consumer prices about the average, offered in selective
A strong company image, superior service, a more efficient distributor
network, monitoring the market environment and possible trends is Me &
My Brothers differentiation strategy.
Low financial and operational resources force Me & My Brothers to
implement risky but manageable innovative and unconventional solutions to
distinguish from the industry’s traditional procedures.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 38
The fashion agency needs to define the need and competitive force for the
off‐season period and to provide this need on a quick or if possible
immediate supply response.
A research and analysis for possible and feasible competitive business
opportunities during the off‐season is required.
Buying Behavior and Promotion:
Making use of the fashion agencies sample collections in a more efficient
and effective manner by promoting it through a reference group during the
Promotion through an aspirational group that has a substantial media and
entertainment influence pushes the company’s brands demand on the
The major problem is to create a reference group’s interest in promoting
your garments, which requires premium and fashion forward brands with
already gained prestige and value.
A related diversification strategy of the company’s product scope improves
and stimulates the off‐season.
The supply of diversified and competitive products, such as associated
fashion products or lifestyle products related to fashion help to diversify
from traditional goods
An appropriate profitable product with success potential needs to
researched and analyzed in the operating market.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 39
4.2. Primary Sources
4.2.1 Qualitative Research Interviews
In order to get qualified answers and some proposals on the research question, it is
necessary to interview people who work in this particular industry. A qualitative
research interview is an optimal tool to gather different opinions, to define the
most important factors on the problem and to capture some recommendations of
The following interviews examine opinions and experiences of Nordic fashion
agencies, all with a comparable target group and target market. How do established
and well performing fashion agencies handle the off‐season in comparison to Me &
All the qualitative interviews have the same “epistemological”26approach according
to Stainar Kvale’s theory. A descriptive and specific interview in terms of what the
interviewees experience, feel and how they act is the overall aim. The aim is to
avoid ambiguity and to try to create an enriching and positive experience for both
the interviewer and interviewee on a confidential level.
“A qualitative interview seeks to cover both a factual and meaning level…it is
necessary to listen to the explicit descriptions and to the meanings expressed, as
well as to what is ‘said between the lines’”27
Open‐ended questions have been used to encourage the respondent to describe
his/her attitude about the subject. The investigation has been implemented in an
empirical method manner. A common and straightforward reciprocity and concrete
answers instead of general opinions was the aim.
“In an interview situation, it is possible for an investigator to obtain in‐depth
information by probing…28
Della Thompson, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English: Ninth Edition, Oxford University Press Inc.,
1995: Epistemology: the theory of knowledge, esp. with regard to its methods and validation, epistemological is
Steinar Kvale, Doing Interviews: The SAGE Qualitative Reserach Kit, Sage Publications ltd., 2007
Ranjit Kumar, Research Methodology 2nd Edition: A step by step guide for beginners, SAGE Publications, 2005
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 40
These are some of the most important answers off all three interviews. The
complete interview with the CEO of Me & My Brothers is in the Appendix 8.
Interview with Me & My Brothers, David Si Said Norberg:
So far, the company has a rather less profitable experience with midterm
Especially, May‐June and Nov.‐Dec. are weak months of productivity. Low
income is generated due to the off‐season operating.
During the off‐season the focus is on re‐orders, client contact and the shop’s
feedback the sold collections.
The company image, the brand quality and exclusivity and honesty
throughout the customers and other business entrepreneurs are the major
factors for Me & My Brothers successful long‐term business.
Interview with the second Nordic agency:
Out of 12 brands this agency offers two brands with a midterm collection.
The 2 midterm collections sell very well, due to the fact that the 2 brand’s
regular summer and winter collections are very good selling.
The off‐season, May‐June and Nov.‐Dec are less profitable months for the
company. However their productivity is still up to 80%.
During the off‐season, competitive and profitable business is realized
through the selling of midterm collections, the introduction of the fashion
agency’s own retail shops, re‐orders and customer maintenance.
Team power, reliability on each team member’s work, reliable and
competent agents and an honest and consistent customer contact are
crucial factors for this agency’s successful long‐term business.
Interview with the third Nordic agency:
Due to the fact that this agency dealt with an already very successful
premium brand they had high sales numbers for the regular collections.
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 41
The midterm collections could not reach the seasonal standards also with
regard to its small product range. Their midterm collections generated
mostly not more than 10% of the amount of what their winter or summer
The off‐season is a remarkable low business with regard to the agency’s
productivity and profitability. The business activity and productivity in May‐
June and Nov. is only about 50%.
Since this company is a mono‐brand agency they do not have many
alternatives during the off‐season.
4.2.2 Investigation/Unstructured Interview
In order to verify the projects theories and its feasibility it was from importance to
investigate the experience and mindset of professionals. Two telephone interviews
with experts have been made. Their substantiated scope of knowledge and
experience was useful to comment on Me & My Brothers problem.
The first investigation took into account a theory of an aspirational group or
influencer that drives or at least influences consumers to buy certain brands. The
interviewee’s company is using the tool of an aspirational group and is experienced
about genially staged marketing. The second investigation examined the experience
on the most proven marketing tools of regarded and profitable brands.
The Investigation/Unstructured Interview method is a way of doing interviews. The
concept of the investigation interviews is to only focus on one specific issue or
theory, to collect in‐depth and supplemented information and to investigate the
feasibility. The investigations of this report focus on specificity and qualified
“In contrast to interviewers posing pre‐formulated questions with respect to
prepared categories for analysis, the qualified naiveté and a bracketing of
presuppositions imply openness to new and unexpected phenomena.”29
The theory of qualified naiveté by doing interviews tries to obtain descriptions that
are comprehensive and presuppositionless. By the conceptualizing of the research
design the attention has been paid to concise and straightforward questions.
Steinar Kvale, Doing Interviews: The SAGE Qualitative Research Kit, Sage Publications ltd., 2007
Final Thesis Carlo Zimmermann 42
These are some of the most important answers. A complete investigation interview
is in the appendix 9.
Good marketing cannot be generalized. A specified marketing mix with
regard to the image, style and mission of the brand or company is a
Authenticity is a tremendous important factor about marketing. The applied
marketing tools need to be in line with the overall image and style of the
The attitude to focus on a premium brand reputation is important.
Promoting a brand through media tools is a promising approach, regardless
the fact if it is a small, new or established company. Important is a strong
focus and the consistency of the approach.
The tool of an aspirational group might even work for a fashion agency.
Important is that the actual brand agrees and supports the agency’s
promotion. The marketing mix, the consistency and the professionalism are
All in all it is rather the image/marketing that drives the customer.
Customers have an image in their head that drives them. Brands with a good
style and premium quality still need a strong marketing.
Fashion Marketing needs to have a distinctive goal and intent with a long‐
term perspective. The credibility for the target group is from importance.
Authenticity and consistency are two compelling factors. The used marketing
tool needs to be in line with the overall image and style of the product. The
long‐term perspective of the promotion is fundamental.
4.2.3 Field Research
The goal of the research phase 1 was to define the need and competitive force for
the agency’s off‐season. The formulated