The Three Ways Fashion Brands Can Win the ‘Rack Race’
Deadlines aren’t moving targets, so, while the increasingly global and complex nature of the fashion industry means there are more moving parts than ever before, clients and consumers don’t want this to affect product delivery. There is an ever-increasing demand to get more collections to market within tighter time frames, all the while maintaining quality and brand integrity. Meeting the fixed measures at each point of the supply chain—from design and collection planning to production, distribution, the e-store and the sales floor—is crucial to maintaining a thriving fashion brand.
In the post-COVID-19 landscape, where operations are more prone to disconnection and projections are difficult, companies that can deliver reliable results are even better positioned for success. Moving to a solution-oriented, collaborative strategy where all team members are able to access and share strategic insights can keep brands empowered and able to meet whatever challenges arise. Here are three ways brands can succeed by ensuring their collections continue to make it to market quickly and efficiently, regardless of the challenges.
1. Use Big Data to Power Strategic Collection Plans
Merchandising leaders rely heavily on historical and forecasting data to make decisions for the upcoming season. Especially now, with supply chains and retail reeling from the pandemic, the right data help you create a balanced collection plan and align products with seasonal merchandising strategies and stay on track with cost and profit margins. However, data are often disorganized, inaccurate or not available to the right people at the right time, which undermines the time and resources spent collecting and analyzing data in the first place. With e-commerce taking over, following up in real time the commercial behavior of all the competitive landscape has also become a major influence of any brand sales strategy.
It’s important to establish a single source of truth to manage data in real time, especially with fashion trends being more fluid than ever. Retail leaders should ensure their teams have actionable insights into collection planning across the supply chain to deliver on-trend products on time. They can achieve this through implementing a centralized data repository that incorporates analytics, consumer insights and the entire value chain—and then ensuring their people can access it at any time, from anywhere in the world.
2. Ensure Teams Are Collaborating Across the Product Life Cycle
Planning and execution of a fashion collection involves stakeholders from across a multitude of key departments. Organizations struggle to gain a consistent, complete and accurate single view of a product, including all the contents that need to be made available from creation to availability on the web. Misaligned teams, unheard voices or teams that operate in competition with each other rather than working as a unit can derail the supply chain and create costly delays, especially now, when teams are working remotely or on staggered schedules. Managing frustrated departments takes away from the ultimate goal of getting products to market.
From the start, topple silos and foster communication by ensuring each team shares its vision and insight on annual targets and buying seasons. The outcome is to get everyone on the same page and work toward a unified goal. Teams need efficient, streamlined collaboration for goal setting and execution.
The added bonus of team-oriented strategizing is that you can identify non-value-added tasks across the supply chain and ensure everyone has the proper tools from the start. It’s equally important to stay connected throughout the entire product life cycle so that the company can meet challenges together and ensure that high-level decision-makers are involved in everything that is happening. Building these organizational bridges creates brands that are responsive, more creative, on trend, on time and on cost.
3. Keep Communications Open With Suppliers
Inefficient communication with suppliers throughout the supply chain can lead to costly production mistakes, delays and wasted dollars. Similarly, outdated files, complex spreadsheets, late decision making and the onslaught of lengthy email chains can lead to major setbacks. You can’t risk losing the edge on an entire season because a supplier missed a critical order.
It’s crucial to harness technology to manage and collaborate with suppliers and keep processes running smoothly, especially in an industry as fast paced as fashion. Teams need to be able to have visibility, make decisions based on complete information and change course, if necessary, to keep processes running smoothly. Especially with many suppliers contributing from around the world, it’s essential that everyone be on the same page in real time—and this ties into up-to-the-minute data and communication.
Tracking all interactions with suppliers is also a key to ensure fashion companies are becoming truly aware of the growing importance of sustainability—a megatrend that is here to stay. In addition, considerations such as local compliance issues across the supply chain or measurement standards for materials and processes can make or break a product timeline. Choosing the right tools and strategies—and sticking to them across the board—will ensure accountability and clear communications.
Edouard Macquin is the president of Lectra Americas. Lectra, headquartered in France, is a technology company that combines software, cutting equipment, data and services to meet the specific needs of fashion, automotive and furniture companies across the globe.