Supply Chain (SCM/SCE)

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Retail supply chain management and the rise of fast fashion

22-Nov-2018
Retail supply chain management and the rise of fast fashion
From the incredible pace of turnover in style trends to the excess waste it produces, today’s fast fashion phenomenon is a controversial topic on many fronts. However, when it comes to the efficiency of today’s retail supply chain management techniques, controversy is replaced by admiration as international clothiers boast operations efficient enough to accurately anticipate demand in one of the world’s most rapidly changing industries.

While it’s too early to deem the business model for traditional fashion retailers obsolete, “on-demand” fashion has forged ahead by sourcing goods that are cheaper and faster to gather and have been quicker to leverage technology into their shopping experience, helping consumers find the best deals through online stores.

Let’s not ignore the smaller fashion companies, who, with access to commercial e-commerce solutions are able to deliver their products to their customers and create strong brand affinity through a digital-only experience.

While the accessibility of online-only ventures is helping the small apparel retailers, bigger companies like H&M, Under Armour and Zara continue to focus on the supply of fashion through both online and bricks and mortar. By leveraging well-implemented bricks-and-clicks business models, these larger retailers can maximize their reach. Behind the scenes, supply chain management drives this powerhouse of a retail engine, giving rise to what we now know as fast fashion.

Zara, the Spanish clothing and accessories brand, is a pioneer in fast fashion, providing their in-store and online customers with affordable, stylish fashion on limited runs to help drive demand, which encourages consumers to buy more items more quickly to ensure they don’t miss out.

Zara isn’t the only international brand to benefit from the fast fashion revolution — H&M consumers continue to flock to their low price points, choosing short-term trends over long-term durability.

The secret behind the success of Zara and H&M

For both Zara and H&M, it all comes down to their supply chain, and how well it operates. Today’s supply chain management solutions allow both companies to allocate resources, design and manufacture products, deliver them direct to consumers or via bricks and mortar with zero operational delay. In other words, they have secured direct control over their operations, from product design and production to logistics.

While automating supply chain operations in fast fashion is essential, the ability to make quick decisions to deliver a comprehensive product portfolio is even more critical when it comes to feeding fashion trends to millions of customers. To enable faster decision making, fast fashion retailers adopt a supply chain model called vertical integration. By leveraging vertical integration, companies take control of more than one phase in their supply chain, enabling their ability to turn raw material into a product and get it to the consumer.

LogisticsBureao highlights the advantages of vertical integration in apparel supply chains as below.
  • Shorter turnaround times 
  • Improved flexibility 
  • Tighter process control 
  • Reduced risk in the supply chain 
  • Improved oversight of quality 
  • Visibility of provenance for customers 

By reviewing and redesigning supply chain operations through the implementation of vertical integration, Macy’s now delivers a wider variety of products on-demand in a shorter amount of time, resulting in a reduction of inventory, saving the company on storage costs.

Commercial supply chain solutions have lowered the barrier to entry for fashion retailers both large and small, and has driven the fast fashion phenomenon, giving retailers the power to adjust their operations as quickly as trends come, and as they go.

How do you see today’s supply chain management solutions making an impact on fast fashion? Software has helped clothing retailers meet the demands of consumers — can it also help solve fast fashion’s excess waste problem?