In April, Jason Baer posted a video on his TikTok, where he had almost no actual audience. The video showed him talking about the problem that inspired his brand, Collars & Co. – the annoyance of wearing a bumpy collar shirt under a sweater – as well as a demonstration of his alternative.
The featured shirt has a dress collar but a soft sweater body meant to be smooth and seamless under a sweater. Baer had only ordered a small batch of 500 pieces, not sure it would actually take off. But the video has gone viral, viewed over 800,000 times. Within two days, the company had sold all 500 pieces. In four months, Baer went from buying 500 shirts at a time to 6,000 at a time. Soon, he said, he will increase those orders to 10,000 to meet demand.
Overnight, his brand had taken off. While delighted with the success, Baer had a problem: How do you quickly scale a brand to meet demand, when the global supply chain is ravaged? This was of particular concern, as he knew that even big brands with more resources struggled to get what they needed.
Baer found that the most effective way to get manufacturers and shipping partners to prioritize his brand’s orders was to be as quick and cooperative as possible. He said that when he received an invoice for a sample or an order, he paid it and sent it back within 10 minutes, rather than quibbling over prices.
“I really wanted to show them that I was professional, that I was serious. And I think it helped a lot, ”he said. “We also had a pretty decent first order, in terms of size. “
After establishing a good relationship with his partner factory in Pakistan, based on the on-time payments and the prompt sale of his first batch, Baer said he had not experienced much delay in production, at the except for a small problem at the beginning of the summer related to Covid19.
The real problem, Baer said, has been the shipping costs. Although he was able to get everything he needed on time, it came at a huge cost. And, he noted, shipping costs keep going up. A shipping container on a freighter that previously cost $ 1,200 now costs over $ 4,000.
“The biggest challenge is shipping, of course,” Baer said. “Inbound shipping costs have doubled, even since we started in April. It’s a huge factor in our margins, as you can imagine.
Hot air balloon shipping costs are the ones that have affected many brands. Los Angeles-based fashion brand Monrow has seen its inbound shipping costs increase by more than 300% in the past three months.
“Transport ships, ports and trucking companies are disrupted by many factors, including the Delta variant. And the demand for everything keeps increasing, ”said Michelle Wenke, co-founder of Monrow. “This is leading to a dramatic increase in prices for shipping goods.”
Shipping costs are particularly daunting, given the expectations around the holiday season. For a new brand like Collars & Co., the first holiday season can help make or break the brand. With demand for Colliers & Co. increasing by 40% each month, the brand is preparing. Baer said he is buying additional inventory each month and putting it aside for the holiday season, in anticipation of having trouble getting what he needs when November and December roll around.
“It’s really hard to determine how much we’ll need since we’ve grown so fast,” Baer said. “For the holidays I just buy a ton, like four times as much [usual] amount. And anything that I don’t sell during the holidays, I hope will not sell until February or even June. Fortunately, this is a fairly off-season product.