The Reality of Fast Fashion

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The Reality of Fast Fashion

01/01/2003
Introduction
Fast Fashion is on everyone’s radar these days. A few numbers to consider: Zara introduces 300,000+ stock keeping units (SKU) every year; Kohl’s introduces new Lauren Conrad pieces every month, and H&M is consistently introducing collaborations with the hottest new designer-- but once they’re gone, they’re gone. Fast Fashion leaves consumers with the notion that there’s no room for a sales rack at the back of the store - it’s buy now, at full price, or be left out.

Fast Fashion Means More Styles, Faster Seasons

The Fast Fashion phenomenon represents the intersection of merchandising expertise with supply chain performance. It is where design and sourcing must work in concert to be successful and where speed can enhance margins. Executing on these programs is made even more complex because apparel supply chains have grown to incorporate geographically-disparate low-cost suppliers to keep the cost of goods sold as low as possible. In industries like retail where margins are notoriously tight, these savings have a substantial impact.

Controlling the Complexities
Fast Fashion increases the number of collections per calendar year and global supply chains increase the complexities associated with lead times and product quality assurance. Successful Fast Fashion retailers have adapted quickly. The merchant’s role in particular has expanded and morphed from fashion prognosticator to that of margin manager. Rapid response to altering the types of products sourced globally, and changing the store product mix to reflect hot trends and impulse buys, can make profits soar. The key is to introduce smaller SKU lots onto the selling floor to increase sell-through at the Initial Mark Up (IMU) to ensure the merchandise satisfies consumer demand.

Paving the Way
The retail industry needs an integrated approach to deliver Fast Fashion private label brands to a rapidly changing market that allows merchants to balance four critical tasks:

1) Design private label products in less time to take advantage of market trends and fickle consumer demand
2) Source goods globally to meet price and delivery requirements
3) Manage the manufacturing, quality and logistics milestones in production
4) Deliver high margin private label merchandise that sells through at the IMU

So how can retailers and manufacturers take advantage of global sourcing initiatives and still produce more collections in their calendar year in shorter, faster timeframes? The answer is a product innovation platform that unifies designing, sourcing and buying fast fashion.

One Global View
A product innovation platform can facilitate collaboration between buyers and sellers, eliminating errors that occur during data entry as a result of redundant systems and creating a single view of the supply chain. This gives suppliers and buyers a level playing field resulting in greater choice and diversity. As soon as the designs are created, Bill of Materials (BOM) can be produced with the click of a button. These can cascade automatically to Purchase Orders (PO) where each line item is assigned to a production and quality assurance regimen. Buyers can have one view of all of their global orders, by collection, class, sub-class, even by style.

These orders can be viewed on a dashboard, in a stop lighted manner: all orders progressing according to their product lifecycle in green; all orders with the possibility of missing a critical milestone in yellow; all orders which require immediate attention due to a testing failure or a missed milestone date in red. Drilling down on a missed quality test might reveal a defect in the fabric; another click would quickly reveal what styles are impacted; another click can substitute an alternate fabric or pattern.

Sourcing Quality Protects Your Brand

Because these lifecycle milestones are embedded into the actual orders, changes are immediately directed up and down the supply chain to the stakeholders who need to know. These changes might include introducing a new color or pattern to the collection when a color performs poorly in a test market or simply switching from ocean to air shipping to expedite delivery on a popular style of trend.

Designing for the Future
So how fast will Fast Fashion be? Ten years ago, we planned our collections two years in advance; five years ago we started to think in terms of less than a year; Zara came along and changed our perspective to weeks. And tomorrow? Consumers may very well be designing a healthy percentage of their own fashion merchandise on the fly. Fast Fashion is not a trend. Fast Fashion is the key to growth and for some retailers, the key to survival. To do Fast Fashion well, retailers need a product innovation platform built for integration, collaboration and speed.

About TradeStone
TradeStone is a collaborative platform used by some of the world’s largest retailers, brands and wholesalers to Find, Design, Source, Buy and Sell great merchandise. Customers shorten cycle times, increase market share and improve margins while reducing brand and product risk. TradeStone’s platform encompasses PLM, sourcing, costing, supplier management, order management, logistics, and B2B sales management.

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