Speed to Market in the Fashion Industry: How to Respond to Consumer Needs?

In the fashion industry, speed is the secret ingredient for success. The ability to ensure immediate availability of the latest fashion styles in stores to fulfill consumers' demands made fast fashion Zara and H&M some of the biggest winners in the industry of apparel over the past decade.

During the last few years, fast fashion retail concept has helped in ensuring flexibility and faster-paced production windows. If you run a fashion and apparel business, your brand's ability to respond to retail needs is key. How to outpace competitors and effectively deliver more fashion collections per year?

Break Down Internal Silos

Many brands and retailers have an internal organization that limits effective communication between departments. Plus, they have processes that strictly adhere to the traditional fashion calendar, which significantly inhibits their ability to stay competitive and respond to retail needs. Breaking such walls can help ensure a single version of the truth between your data, design, merchandising, and manufacturing teams.

Fast fashion retailer Zara has been effective in this matter by centralizing the critical business functions at their headquarters and encouraging a culture that supports communication. Sales and marketing teams talk regularly with designers and merchandisers to understand customers' needs and preferences. Such a strategy helps to ensure a collective responsibility in designing, producing and launching collections.

Ensure Shorter Lead Times

Traditionally, many retailers have been running on an 18-month cycle, which makes it difficult to predict future customers' needs. Low-priced retailers like ASOS and Boohoo are now challenging fast-fashion old-timers like Zara by delivering new styles, from concept to product, in as little as two weeks.

Shorter lead times are critical in the current fashion market, and businesses can achieve that through creating a responsive, end-to-end supply chain and leveraging technology innovations. To set an example, Nike has heavily invested in automation and redesign in logistics to drop its lead times from 60 days to 10 days. These kind of innovative and cutting-edge technologies help businesses streamline their processes and supply chain.

Operate Agile Supply Chains

The best way to create agile supply chains is by having more control and insight over every step of the process. Leveraging tools like robotics, 3D design, and automation can help to reduce the turnaround time in the supply chain. Consequently, you'll be able to control the frequency and timing of new product launches.

[ Related: Two Costly Apparel Supply Chain Issues You Can Solve ]

In the fashion industry, implementing a vertically integrated supply chain can provide businesses with a level of autonomy that their competitors don't have. This allows brands to export new products up to every 24 hours throughout the year, thus ensuring new products in stores within 10 to 15 days.

It is a big challenge for brands to stay ahead of their competitors and successfully meet consumers demands, but by implementing software solutions fitting business needs and breaking down internal silos to boost collaboration between teams, companies in the fashion and apparel industry can ultimately revamp their operations to achieve a faster speed to market.

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