Fashion Product Lifecycle Management: Pre-Season phase
The collection planning of a fashion company begins far from the moment the product sell becomes effective, months or even a year before the garments meet the shops’ shelves. The pre-season stage of the product lifecycle management covers a large time range and it is critical as it is when the decision-makers need to build plans based on forecasts about seasonality, trends and buyers’ behavior.
On top of this risky factor, we must add the presence of numerous articles in the collection that have different life-cycles or maturity degrees and positions with customers. In this environment, it is not uncommon that by the sales orders are being created for the upcoming season, unpredictable business factors play out and change the expected current course.
Of course, external elements are also to be kept in mind; forces such as the increasing competition in the market, faster merchandise turn around or extreme events such as terrorism, protest marches or travel disruptions can affect negatively business processes and hurt companies' profit.
The evolution of the fashion industry
In the past, fashion seasonality was clearly separated into two seasons: autumn-winter and spring-summer. However, nowadays we get new “seasons” roughly every six weeks. This tendency has settled throughout the world with astounding speed in part because the core business of fashion companies is no longer limited to the production of a specific product category, but it also includes the achievement of customer loyalty and satisfaction by meeting their fast-changing consuming habits. How can companies keep up?
A lot has changed in the fashion industry during the past few decades, and the influence of technology is undeniable. On one hand, this same technology has democratized the purchase experience for consumers, making it easy and accesible to anyone who has a smartphone with internet conection (and we are speaking about almost 5 billion users worldwide). On the other hand, it has highly increased the competition in the market and made it more of a challenge for designers and business owners to deliver their fashion merchandise to market at the right moment and successfully carry out business processes in order to provide the customers with the shopping experiences they are demanding.
Leverage technology to better read the market
Putting greater emphasis on planning and leveraging stronger data can help companies enhance product lifecycle management, says Sonia Hernandez, an associate partner with The Parker Avery Group, a strategy and management consulting firm focused on the retail industry. “Many fashion firms are struggling with the high rates of change in collections and assortments,” she says. “Customers want season change more frequently than twice per year, and assortment planning tools and processes are not keeping up with the desired amount of change needed.”
By using technology to get a better read on the market and the forecasts, companies have a chance to get the product’s lifecycle, beginning with the plan, off to a stronger start. “Some firms focus on the front end (product sourcing), and others focus on the back end (markdowns and end of life), but too many are missing a good plan that is data driven for end to-end fashion PLM” Hernandez says.
With newer technology, such as predictive analytics, “retailers can analyze customer and marketplace information that can be used to triangulate demand forecasts with merchandising plans and to respond to changing market dynamics in real time,” he said.