The fashion industry is full of prestigious and glittery career paths, like that of a wardrobe stylist, buyer or fashion designer. However, the backbone of the industry rests on many careers that aren't as well publicized, but can often be equally as rewarding. One of those careers in particular is that of a fashion sales representative.
What Is A Sales Rep
A fashion sales representative is responsible for selling a designer's line to the retailers. Think of them as a middle-man between a brand and a buyer. Since most established fashion houses and fashion designers have more than enough work on their hands overseeing the daily ins and outs of their label, they leave selling their merchandise up to a professional.
What do Sales Reps Do
Fashion sales reps generally work in a showroom. The showroom houses the samples from a designers current collections. Some showrooms are corporate and house only one designer; other showrooms are independent and house multiple designers. The showroom is where the buyers come to view the collection and place orders for the upcoming season.
Although sales reps work year round, the busiest time for them is market week, which usually happens over the course of 4 or 5 days. Market week generally happens five times per year, however, not all lines showcase a collection every season. Market week dates differ per city, and generally happen in larger cities like Los Angeles and New York, where the vast majority of permanent showrooms are located, but also at larger fashion conventions like MAGIC in Las Vegas, as well as trade-shows in Dallas, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and other smaller markets. Generally, a sales rep will cover a single territory, but reps who manage larger territories are expected to travel to each city for their individual market.
In addition to presenting a collection to buyers and taking orders, sales reps are also required to handle customer support with buyers by answering questions about the fit of a garment, how well the styles are selling, and when their orders are due to ship. Some sales reps are required to keep an eye on merchandising in department stores. And road reps travel throughout their territory to meet clients and potential clients and present the collection to them directly in their shops.
Career Path of a Sales Rep
There are no specific courses for becoming a sales rep, although many do attend fashion schools and major in fashion merchandising or something similar. Generally, sales reps are hired based on experience, and often times their contact lists. Those who are hoping to gain experience can often times get hired as a showroom assistant or showroom intern, and then move on to assistant sales rep. Generally after 2-5 years working entry level a rep is ready to take on the title of sales rep.
Sales reps can also work independently by starting their own showrooms. This is ideal for fashion lovers who want to own their own business and support emerging or established brands. Generally, independent sales reps will need to rent space in a showroom building such as the California Market Center, New Mart or Liberty Building in downtown Los Angeles.
Sales Rep Salaries
Sales reps are generally paid a commission on top of a base salary, however many corporate sales representatives are salaried only, and some indie lines will only pay their rep a commission. Generally, associate sale representatives starting salaries are about $45,000 per year, with showroom managers making more. Showroom owners can potentially make much more (or less) through not only commissions but charging designers a monthly fee for their services.