Supply Chain Management is Key to Seasonless Fashion
November 7, 2017
Fashion retail is one of the fastest moving sectors with some of the most demanding consumers. They expect high quality, reasonably priced, well delivered, varied products throughout the year. Traditionally fashion retailers have confined themselves to season driven offerings e.g Spring/Summer from January – June, Autumn/Winter from July to December, and although this has become a widely accepted model, it may no longer be the best way to maximise sales.
One brand leading the way in the development of seasonless fashion offerings is Zara. Zara now provides consumers with new products every two weeks, inspiring their loyal customers to visit the store on average 17 times a year, a stark contrast to more traditionally operating brands which generate an average of 4.1 visits a year per customer. This new approach is driven by the change in consumer shopping habits; when today’s customer sees a trend they want to buy it right away, not 18 months later. Seasonless fashion also means that no styles, colours or materials are off limits, opening the door for buyers to be able to accurately react to the market now, rather than just focusing on what it could be in 18 months time. But what does this mean for the demands on the supply chain?
65% of Zara’s production is based on proximity, and all of its products can be delivered from the factory by air within one day to any of its 4,400 stores. By keeping suppliers at no more than an arm’s length, retailers can call upon them quickly and easily, facilitating them to react to any impulsive trends or surprising purchasing behaviour that may arise outside of their pre-agreed shipment and stock requirements. Proximity also means that the suppliers themselves are more aware of the emerging developments in the market, and will already be looking to tailor their products to the changes in progress, further increasing the speed to market opportunities.
Proximity alone however is not enough. No matter how close the supplier may be, brands need to ensure that their suppliers can provide them with products quickly, to a high standard and in a reputable and ethical manner. To tackle this retailers should be automating their critical path where possible and simplifying the reporting and analysis processes. By managing the entire supply chain process from initial product concept through to cash, retailers can work collaboratively with their suppliers, not only helping save time and money, but also bringing products to market quickly whilst ensuring there will be no irresponsible sourcing or sustainability issues.
Whilst the task of providing so many new products, so quickly and on such a regular basis may seem daunting to some brands, the agility and accuracy that successful supply chain management provides mitigates a lot of the risks, and instead allows retailers (such as Zara) to reap more rewards.
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We have found them to be an excellent business partner. Through the implementation of both their supply chain and sourcing software they have more than proven themselves in giving us a product that functions the way we need it to. LIMA has been a fantastic supply chain visibility tool, calculating real accurate landed cost position throughout the order lifecycle. The LIBERTY software matches our product sourcing business needs perfectly. PLM systems I’ve previously used, often bring lots of issues through implementation, but these guys managed this and I’ve got highly satisfied users.John Amm - GM Global Sourcing, Myer
The solution has realised more benefits than we initially thought possible. Claims notifications are being handled in a fraction of the time. Suppliers are making fewer calls into the office and quality scores have increased dramatically. All of this can only have had a positive impact on the customer experienceMartin Ashfield, head of commercial property claims, AXA
The system alerts us to exceptions against our plan, allowing us to focus our attentions on solving the real issues in the supply chain. Having a comprehensive audit trail of events for everyone to see has resulted in significantly improved service levels from our suppliers and agents.Darren Walker, head of generics buying and UK trading, Alliance Healthcare
Now our buyers can exchange photographs with suppliers and have a real-time dialogue as they develop styles, while buyers out in the Far East can send detailed and accurate information back to their teams in the UK. It has certainly cut lead times and reduced errors.Maxine Walter, supply chain co-ordination manager, New Look
The time it takes to compile reports has been significantly reduced; a report which used to take five whole days to complete is now accomplished within a single day!Sam Brown, Responsible Sourcing Co-ordinator - John Lewis.