Strategizing the Holiday Season and What Lies Beyond
With more variables in play—inflation, for starters—than even the past two volatile years, this holiday shopping season should be a wild sleigh ride. And when all the dust and snow have settled, what will be the key takeaways for planning the new year?
California Apparel News rounded up key voices in the technology sector and asked them the following:
With the holiday shopping season upon us, what data will you be tracking to inform your products and services for 2023?
The answers reveal a range of business strategies to provide guidance going into the 2022 holiday season and what lies beyond.
Senior Vice President and General Manager
As a leading provider of textile printing solutions, EFI Reggiani has maintained a strong focus on helping customers establish shorter, smarter manufacturing processes with our digital printers. Those technologies not only speak to a need for efficiency, but they also eliminate water usage, addressing the important emphasis among manufacturers, brands and consumers on sustainability.
Our digital-printing technologies are, by definition, governed by data. And in June of this year, EFI Reggiani took a major step forward on that front, broadening our approach to data to create a more-efficient manufacturing process with the acquisition of Inèdit Software.
This acquisition is not directly tied to the very important and challenging demand our customers face around predicting and planning for consumers’ holiday shopping. However, it does address the need for greater agility and faster time to market, and that makes a significant difference in companies’ ability to respond to demand predictions.
One of Inèdit’s key technologies, Inèdit neoCatalog, is a centralized workflow solution for organizing and sharing designs online and creating multiple color variations. The system manages designs and can send them into production without long download times. It is also a system that integrates into Inèdit RIPs for an even faster process getting a design reprinted.
When incorporated with an efficient, ecofriendly digital production line like our EFI Reggiani TERRA or new ecoTERRA solutions, textile and apparel companies gain the ability to make smarter decisions with regards to demand predictions. Textile producers can be more conservative in their expenditures and avoid overproduction knowing that there is a faster digital solution to getting designs produced again if they do not produce enough at first for any given design.
Vice President, Marketing and Client Engagement
Apparel Business Systems
At ABS we provide relevant data management for our customers so they can make important decisions for their businesses. Knowing past sales metrics can help provide effective guidance on future product offerings. ABS provides system solutions and services for apparel and footwear wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers and B2B/B2C e-commerce retailers.
As a fully integrated enterprise application, ABS houses business data and history from concept to cash. From costing to forecasting and planning, and from inventory control to sales analysis, ABS optimizes efficiency and boosts real-time visibility.
Empowering users to see their data in meaningful ways is how we help businesses make smarter decisions for the upcoming year. Automating and streamlining processes is how ABS helps clients execute their commitment to offering and fulfilling their products.
Alvanon is working to create a more holistic solution when it comes to virtual try-on apps. Chief Operations Officer Jason Wang says there is an opportunity to integrate more elements when it comes to figuring out which product is right for a specific consumer.
Wang and the Alvanon team are currently working to bridge the gap between the current product offerings, which either help customers understand whether they like a style, color and other features of a garment versus solutions that address how an item will fit. “Consumers are first drawn to the style and the look of the garment, while sizing and fit is the last decision they make before they make a purchase,” says Wang.
Alvanon has spent the last 20 years gathering a lot of body data from around the world, developing both its own size standards for different markets, including North America, Europe and China. “All of these data, as well as all of the body data that we have gathered through different scanning projects, is being used to drive our alpha nonparty Alvanon Body Engine,” says Wang.
Brands will be able to use the tool to feed in their proprietary fit standards and use those to accurately predict and recommend the correct fit and size to the consumer. “The use of consumer-facing fit technology allows you to have a feedback loop about the sizing and body information of your consumer,” says Wang. “These data are analyzed and could be immediately applied as recommendations to improve or better your current fit standards.”
President, Application Solutions and Technology Outsourcing
Computer Generated Solutions
The holiday season has begun early, and manufacturers and retailers have worked diligently throughout the year to manage complexity along the supply chain to avoid the issues that disrupted the industry for the past two years.
The dynamics of the season are particularly interesting this year with many macroeconomic factors at play: The post-pandemic economy, rising inflation and global political instability have outpaced the health concerns of yesteryear. That said, the lessons learned from the pandemic have accelerated the deployment of technology across the supply chain. Inventory is plentiful; in fact, there is a glut of available merchandise, and sales and marketing teams are putting their best feet forward to maximize sales.
Retailers that have invested in technology to anticipate and understand demand will be better positioned to have successful omni-channel sales. The benefit of an earlier than usual holiday season is that savvy retailers can take full advantage of preholiday discounts and replenish their inventory as sales data come through.
What our manufacturing and retail customers in fashion and consumer goods have told us is paramount to ensure preparedness and product availability all year—most urgently over the holidays—is full supply-chain visibility from the manufacturing floor to the showroom floor. This ensures insight from concept to delivery and provides an understanding of sell-through numbers and metrics on all of their initiatives.
Visibility enables informed decision-making that improves operational efficiency, effective and profitable inventory allocation through as many sales channels as possible, and greater understanding of critical sales and market drivers that will affect their overall business strategy for all of 2023.
Vice President of Marketing, Americas
As to what data are most critical to assess, the short answer is competitors’ assortment, discount and pricing strategy. Understanding these aspects of a competitor will enable retailers to meet the needs of customers, streamline supply chains, and balance the relationship between creativity and data-backed decision-making.
Excess inventory, ongoing supply-chain delays and macroeconomic issues like inflation and recession all play a role in consumer buying behaviors and will affect this year’s holiday season. Brands that win this year will be informed by the competitive landscape, which will allow them to spot opportunities and make bets that fill the gaps.
Customers are demanding a fast, frictionless, tech-enabled shopping experience and are taking hints from social media to make decisions about which trends to follow. Retailers truly listening to competitors will be granted an advantage when it comes to satisfying customer needs that aren’t being met while avoiding pitfalls of decision-making based on instinct alone.
Supply-chain digitization and efficiency impacts holiday shopping from inventory management to the consumer experience, and getting it right can make a big impact. Competitor data can inform production decisions at the source to identify gaps in collections and adapt pricing strategy to meet market demand. Pricing strategy can also be supported and informed by materials costs and enable savings when accurate production-process data are available.
This extends into product lifecycle management as a way to guarantee visibility into a brand’s data to draw accurate comparisons with competitors. Having this link aids in streamlining manufacturing workflows, which seamlessly integrates from the development stage to on-demand manufacturing.
When it’s possible to analyze competitors’ retail strategy from pricing to assortments, it becomes simpler to detect opportunities, boost competitive edge and ultimately increase margins.
Head of Business Development and Initiatives
2021 was a strong year for accessories, and 2022 seems to be a continuation of a good year for the category, especially jewelry and bags as the lift in those categories maintained weeks into the holiday buying season this year.
We’ve also seen 13 percent more jewelry brands on the platform compared to last year, and we will continue to expand upon our accessories as well as home décor and gift offerings going into 2023.
Inflation has forced many retailers to rethink their buying strategy to be more conscious of price and hunt for bargains, while certain merchandising strategies have stayed top of mind. From our engagement with retailers on FashionGo, introducing new arrivals weekly to their shoppers was key to success. The data also support this, as the view count on New Arrivals, where FashionGo introduces daily new items, continues to increase.
Over the past several weeks, retailers also seem to procure more in-stock merchandise with a faster turnaround, which can be immediately sold to their shoppers. We believe this buying trend can also be attributed to the strengthening consumer ethos in retail of “buy now, wear now” as we enter 2023.
Chairman and CEO
Being a major technology partner with very large vendors in Asia and Central America, we get the information three to six months ahead of what happens in the retail market. Cancellations, discounts, drops in production and grim forecasts for the historically busiest times are major indicators of things to come.
Many large companies saw an unprecedented increase last year and ramped up their capacity, hired and trained employees, invested in equipment, and then suddenly it dropped. The cancellations of orders in production are higher than during the lockdown period.
As we forecasted in 2018, we will be producing 40 percent fewer garments in five years, yet the next revolution will come from demand manufacturing. We will make where we sell, and the biggest growth will be in selling directly to the consumer, which is already taking shape.
In fact, direct-to-consumer is experiencing explosive growth. China pivoted and started making smaller amounts of garments, shipping directly to the consumer, and saw its margins compensate for the lack of large orders. Companies like Shein—valued higher than Inditex and H&M combined—show the industry is ready to change while big-box retailers are still stuck in a time warp. Customers do not pay duties when shipping from China if the value is less than $800; it is the de minimis waiver that was created to expedite sample shipments.
Global Content Manager
Our technologies are built to address broader macro trends. These include the growth of e-commerce, fulfilling demand for customized and personalized materials in any quantity, enabling a more ecofriendly print process and production model without sacrificing quality or graphic capability, giving users the agility to react quickly to sudden opportunities and challenges, and many more industry trends.
Kornit customers typically see higher demand in the fourth quarter, but the speed and reliability of these systems generally make the workload manageable. There is virtually no setup time nor labor for individual jobs, and some customers run their machines 24/7 during peak seasons. The bottom line is that the technology is built to empower producers—and, by extension, designers and brands—to adapt quickly to variations in the marketplace. That could be specific fabrics becoming more or less popular, sudden demand for specific graphic effects or colors, or broader issues such as supply-chain bottlenecks, labor shortages, inflation and so on.
Kornit technology gives users the confidence to know that unforeseen disruptions can be overcome, and we offer the broadest capability for efficient, safe, sustainable, waste-free production that unleashes creativity in any manner the creator chooses.
Our machines are the cornerstone of a localized end-to-end production model that helps safeguard producers against external vulnerabilities and give the people what they want when they want it. Any data that arise from this upcoming peak season will reflect the market as it was at that time while we build to prepare customers for any possible developments that may yet come.