A to Z of Apparel Merchandising

Proto sample order enquiry:  This is the first stage in which the buyer will enquire with the Merchant/merchandiser about the new order.

Forwarding tech pack:  When the order enquiry has been done, then the buyer sends a “Tech Pack” or technical specification sheet to the Merchant/ merchandiser. Tech pack includes all the details of a style and which includes the items as follows:
  • Product style design
  • Measurements
  • Fabric
  • Style code
  • Colour code
  • Embellishment details, etc.

Product development
• It is one of the important jobs of the merchandiser. Once the ‘Tech Pack’ is received, the merchandiser will arrange the tech pack details in a format by dividing various styles and its details of the garment.
• He advises the junior merchandisers regarding the specification details and requirements of the buyer.
• This will help the junior merchandisers to assist the sampling department manager/coordinator.
• The sample is developed based on the requirements of the buyer. Effective communication between the different levels of people plays a vital role in sample development.

Approval of the developed sample
• After the sample development, 2–3 samples (as per buyers’ requirements) are sent to the buyer for approval of the style.
• The main objective of the development sample is, the buyer will understand how the garment style looks with the specific details /they will estimate the manufacturer’s capacity and ability to produce the sample for their line.
• The samples are prepared with the available fabric in store which closely resembles the exact requirement. This will help the buyer to understand the manufacturer’s ability. Sometimes, to receive the order, the merchandiser also develops the sample with original fabric.
• In sample development, surface ornamentations/embellishments and fit are followed as per the tech pack. If some correction is to be done then the buyer will send the correction details and again the samples are reworked/developed again and sent to the buyer. This process will be continued until the sample gets approved.

A to Z of Merchandising-Texpedia

Costing 
• Once the sample approval is received from the buyer, then the merchandiser will perform the garment costing.
• It is done by calculating various costs incurred to make a garment style. It consists of various factors like:
  • Fabric cost
  • Trims and accessories cost
  • CMT
  • Washing or finishing cost
  • Bank charges
  • Buffer value
  • Miscellaneous costs like rejection cost, wastage, etc.

Order placement 
• Based on the finalised pricing value, the costing “quote” will be sent to the buyer. The price quote provided by the vendor is not necessary to be accepted by the buyers and there will be a negotiation between both the parties.
• Once final costing or re-costing is done and the same is accepted by the buyer, the buyer will place the order with the required order quantity and other main details to the Merchant/merchandiser.

Getting the materials ready for production
Soon after the order placement, a merchandiser drives for getting all the required materials for the production start. S/he has to deal with 3 issues simultaneously as 1. Fabric development & approval, 2. Sample development & approval, and 3. Trims-accessories development & approval from the buyer. 

Fabric and trims ordering
• Once the order is accepted by the buyer, the order will be placed officially to the particular manufacturing firm.
• Immediately merchandiser will place the order for required raw materials like fabric, trims, accessories, etc. as per the colour, GSM, weave, quantity, quality, etc. which is required for the style.
• The merchandiser will also forward the requirement sheet to the purchase department by advising them to place orders with the suppliers.

Lab dip/yarn dip 
• The first process after the order acceptance is lab dip where the merchandiser will send the samples of dyed fabric to the buyer for colour analysis and shade approval. 
• The submission of yarn dip/ lab dip includes many shades of the colour which the buyer has asked for the garment (striped or solid dyed garments).
• The yarn dip or lab dip approval is the critical process, this process will be continued till the shades get approved from the buyer. This approved shade will be used for the bulk dyeing of yarn/fabric for final garment production.

Garment sampling
Though garment sampling may be different from buyer to buyer, the following mandatory samples must be processed and sent to the buyer for approval. 

Fit sample 
• The first sample for the provided specification is developed by the company which is known as FIT sample.
• This sample generally developed with the actual fabric or available fabric close to the buyer requirement will be used. The sample generally will be developed for a sample size (medium size of the size ranges). The main objective of this sample is to check the fit. Once the sample is submitted, the buyer evaluates the sample measurements, fit aspects and they will give feedback to the merchandiser for revision.
• The buyer returns fit approvals sheet which contains all the actual measurements and required measurements and how much deviation has occurred for the purpose of correction.
• Totally three pieces are made, all of which are sent to the buyer and 2 of them are sent back to merchandiser after approval. Merchandiser keeps 1 pcs of the approved sample which is a counter sample and send the remaining 1 sample to the sample section. Once this is approved, the order is confirmed.

Pre-production samples
• Once the fit samples are approved, then the pre-production (PP) samples or the red seal samples are made. PP sample will have all the specific details of the style with the exact fabric, colour, trims, surface, ornamentations, etc.
• This is the main step where the sample has to look exactly as per the buyer’s requirement. Around 2–3 samples (in four sizes each) are sent to the buyer for the approval and buyer can advise any corrections if required.

Size set samples 
• Till the pre-production sample, the sample may be prepared in the sample department of the company. But after this stage for the size set sample, mostly the buyer recommends the merchandiser to produce in the actual manufacturing unit.
• Size set samples are made for the purpose of checking the different sizes of the same style in terms of fit, measurements, styling, etc.
• It is also made to check whether the assigned unit is able to produce that style as per the specs. Three sets are made for all sizes. It is done in original fabric.

Garment sample room-Texpedia

Pre-production meeting (PPM)
• Once all the samples are approved and all raw materials are ready in the store to start the bulk production, the pre-production meeting will be arranged by the merchandiser.
• Pre-production meeting will be conducted with all the department heads and important personnel of the company to plan the process, so that delay can be avoided.
• Here the merchants will discuss with the production heads on how the production can be scheduled and done within the required time. 
• Merchandiser in this meeting also discusses about the styling details of the garments so that proper line-layout can be arranged. Planning department can arrange the special machines if required according to the critical processes present in the garment. So this meeting is important and inevitable.

Forwarding of production file to production planning and control
Production file is a document which includes all the details of a particular style. This document is prepared by the merchandiser. Production file is forwarded to PPC (production planning and control) once the PP sample is approved, along with the file, the merchandiser will forward the approved PP sample also. Some of the details in the production file include the following items:
  1. Final approved spec sheet
  2. Export order sheet
  3. Colour details
  4. Style description
  5. Packing type
  6. Print/embroidery instructions, material requirement sheet category, item, position, colour, size, consumption, unit in kilograms, quantity, total quantity.
  7. Job details for computer-aided pattern making (lectra) and fabric order
  8. Marker plan
  9. TNA order sheet
  10. 2D style diagram and trims
  11. Packing information

Checking the availability of fabrics and trims
Once the file is received by the PPC, they will check and study each and every detail in the file and they will also check the availability status of the fabric and trims in the store. They will follow-up on the same if it’s not yet reached in the house.

Checking the embellishments of the particular style
Surface ornamentation may include embroidery, printing or appliqué and these are done as per the buyer’s requirement. So PPC will check the ornamentation details and plans according to that and in parallel arrange all the required things for the same.

Checking the status of stitching materials in-house
Stitching materials are those which are used for sewing like threads and accessories which assist production so in parallel they will do the arrangement for the stitching materials in-house.

Checking the patterns with the pattern master
• Production file includes all the details about the patterns and merchants will forward the original patterns along with the production file to the PPC.
• Once they receive the patterns, they will forward the patterns to the pattern master and master will cross check the pattern with the actual and confirm.
Grading and final cross-check
• Once everything is checked and confirmed by the master then, the pattern is forwarded to the CAD (computer aid design) department for grading. Grading is a process of making different sizes from a basic size.
• When the file is forwarded to PPC, only one size pattern will be provided and grading is done for other sizes. Finally, the graded pattern will be cross-checked and confirmed with the master.

Fabric laying and cutting 
• Laying is a process in which a huge lot of fabric lots are laid flat in several plies as per the marker plan.
• In this process, based on the order quantity, the length of the lay, the number of lays and the type of the lay to be spread will be instructed by the production planning department. After laying the pattern, the developed pattern layout obtained from the marker plan is used to cut the materials.

Wash 
• After cutting, the cut fabrics are sent to washing if the program requires or else it can be directly passed to next stages like printing or embroidery.
• During the washing, the merchandiser should monitor the quality requirements and ensure proper delivery requirements in terms of both quantity and time.
• Surface ornamentation like printing or embroidery is done on cut pieces rather than in full garment. This is because it reduces the risk of spoiling the whole garment if some defects occurred during printing or so. If defect happens in cut pieces that can be replaced, then less fabric wastage happens.
• Sometimes, buyer wants washing after the garment being sewn. In that case, garments from the sewing floor are sent to the washing plant for necessary wash or garment dyeing. 

Loading inline 
• Once the surface ornamentation process is over on cut pieces, the pieces will be bundled and passed to sewing department. Here the merchandiser needs to follow-up on the correct schedule of the loading.
• If any delay occurs, it is merchandiser’s responsibility to get the targets on the date. He should take remedial measures to overcome the shortfall on the production in different means.

Finishing 
• Once the whole garment is stitched and collected at the end of the line, then the same will be forwarded to the finishing section.
• In finishing section, the garments will be checked for defects, loose threads are trimmed and pressed with steam and then packed as per the requirement.
• In each point, the merchandiser should coordinate with the production in charge and he should make sure that the customer’s requirements were obtained without any deviations.

Dispatch 
• Dispatch is the end process in which the garments are packed in the cartons and shipped.
• It is merchandiser’s responsibility to check the availability of required documents for logistics and shipping process.
Source: Apparel Merchandising by R. Surjit

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