You asked so many great questions! I do have to be honest, I had a little help answering some of them, but only because I wanted to give you the best possible answers. It wasn’t because I didn’t know the answer …
no, no, not at all.
Q: Paula Fisk asked: Can we submit product suggestions?
A: Yes, of course! We love your feedback on both positive and negative aspects of our current designs, as well as what you think we might be missing. Currently, you can submit suggestions through any of our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter or right here on our blog) or by sending us a letter.
Q. Lydia Strain asked:Does customer feedback on social media sites impact what Vera Bradley does?
A: Yes! We meet monthly with our Merchandise Management team to go over suggestions made through all outlets. We do our best to stay on top of what the consumer has, wants and needs, and to put these things in the line while staying true to our brand identity.
Q. Mary, Deb, Julie K., Kath, Christine, Steph, Chas, Fran Curran, Kelsey Batey and Kendall Bb’s inquired about and offered great product suggestions:
A. The answer is, it’s all a secret and I can’t give everything away! I can tell you that we constantly have our eye out for new designs and ideas to create product that we know you’ll love. The designers and I are always looking for innovative ways to bring in new categories and we would love to design them all, however, there are a lot of factors that weigh these decisions. For instance, how are we going to market, merchandise and distribute these products? Where and when is the best time to bring them into the line? And, most importantly, is it
Q. Tracy H., Pam, Lynn, Hillary, Julie K., Lilac Wolf and Natalie E. asked: How do we decide to retire patterns? Is it only based on dollars? And how do we decide how many patterns or new colors to bring into the line? Will we ever bring back retired patterns?
A: The decision to retire patterns is always a sad one and relies on many factors. The finance of the pattern is of course a factor. We figure, if you aren’t buying it, then it probably wasn’t a good pattern to bring into the line, or it is one that you no longer desire. There are also questions of how the line looks as a whole. If we have a lot of blues and pinks in the line, for instance, and the upcoming collection features similar hues, we might eliminate an older color and replace it with a new one.
The number of patterns released with each new collection is usually a set number of four per season (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter), but sometimes we just can’t seem to choose our favorite so we might sneak in one more. Plus, we like to keep our sales team on their toes!
While there are those we would all love to see again, we have never made plans to bring back a retired pattern. But, we’ve learned to never say never. In the case of Java Blue, we felt, it had a good long run and we wanted to bid it farewell on a positive note.
Q. Lisa Q., Natalie E., Hanna, Lisa Ouzts, Renee Clady, Jasmine Jordan and Susie Patton asked: How are trends decided? Do we set the trend? Where do we look for inspiration, and how long does this process take?
A: We begin looking at trends and inspiration about a year and a half before you ever see it. Actually, I just gave the designers information about what styles are trending highly for our Fall 2012 Signature collection! Patterns and colors take about 3 – 4 months to develop through a process much like evaluating pieces of artwork in a gallery. We hang the options on the wall and proceed to narrow them down by many scientific and psychological studies, the likes of which I can not reveal. However I can promise you that none of those studies involve darts, maybe.
The question of how we develop trends is such a fun one because we get inspiration from everywhere and everything! It comes from you, fashion and gifts, blogs, research shopping (painful, I know), where we look for colors, styles and just about anything that inspires us. We travel all over to try and provide a diverse pool of concepts. Then we do our best to translate all of that into what will work for our consumer.
Do we set the trends? For some we do, and I’d like to think that people look to us for inspiration as we look to others, but I wouldn’t say that any one thing sets a trend. It’s about everything that is going on around all of us!
For us, two days are never the same. We’re extremely collaborative when it comes to creating, meeting, sharing and researching future designs. Our technical team spends their days perfecting the designs. They send out test samples, primarily to Vera Bradley employees, then gather information to assess any imperfections, then they tweak the designs until they are up to the Vera Bradley quality standards. We do love to have an occasional dance party and enjoy spending time together laughing and generally being goofy. (It helps stir the creative juices!)
Q. Susan Scheungrab asked: How long does it take for a new concept to go from thought to finish? Are the pieces and the fabric conceived together, or are they different teams that ultimately come together to form the perfect items?
A: It’s about a year and half from the time we start researching a style or color, to the time it launches in stores. There’s a long, technical process that begins with concepts and samples from our sample room and ends with the fashions you love.
Yes, the product and the colors are designed separately. The color is designed first, followed by new products. While we all have different roles, everyone does ultimately come together to help create what we hope is a mix of product that will suit the season, the consumer and the trends.
Q. PJ asked: Are you trying to appeal to every age group now or primarily the younger buyer?
A: We do our best to market to ladies of all ages. The diversity of our consumer, because it is so broad, is one of the best and most challenging things we encounter as a company. We want to engage all ages in our products and campaigns, which we aim to achieve through the use of friends and family in our photography, and highlighting points of interest like back to campus, seasonal trends and holidays.
Q. Jaime A. asked: How do you decide where to test market patterns?
A: We use locations based on region of the country so that we can gauge the pulse of consumers from around the country. We try to stay consistent with locations so that we can compare results from one year to the next.