Pre-Christmas time is a busy period for fashion industry. It is not a surprise that clothes manufacturers and retailers are dealing with order increase during holiday period. Apart from this particular case, what other challenges are they facing while managing their supply chain?
Peak seasons (holidays, sales, promotions)
The holiday season has always been a difficult period for fashion brands and retailers. Moreover, in fashion industry peak seasons are not only related to holidays, but also to sales and promotion campaigns.
In any of these cases, excellent peak season execution implies planning and preparing in advance, so that the warehouse IT, personnel and equipment are ready for large fluctuations. To avoid possible problems with managing seasonality, logistics operators provide numerous solutions, for example by using predictive analysis (making valid predictions of volumes and planning temporary workforce accordingly); or by providing larger warehouse capabilities thanks to flexible site solutions.
Faster collection renewal rates («Fast fashion»)
With the movement of “fast fashion”, brands and retailers are under constant pressure of speed-to-market improvement. The time when brands released 2 collections per year became a history long ago, nowadays they are constantly providing new lines (every two or three months in general or even more frequently).
Fast fashion brands offer inexpensive and trendy clothing, encouraging customers to make impulsive buys, as the item you liked may be gone from the store in just a few days.
This market trends cannot but influence supply chain, so the logistics process has to be adapted to the greater speed to market. Logistics providers need to decrease lead times and to deliver new releases to outlets as quickly as possible.
It also arises the demand for value added services in logistics, so that the retailers receive items completely prepared to be placed on shelves. Some value added services may include unpacking and ready-for-shelf product handover, price labelling, ironing for clothes on hanger, sewing, repackaging.
Sustainability («Slow fashion»)
As mentioned earlier, the right timing is crucial in fashion industry. So what retailers expect from their logistics partners is reliability, the guarantee to be delivered regardless of the circumstances.
However, what matters is not only being reliable, but also responsible. Fashion brands nowadays tend to choose carefully their suppliers to protect their reputation at every stage. In the era of social media, a scandal with suppliers destroy their public image at once and completely eliminate the company from the market.
We have dwelled above on the Fast fashion movement, but there is also such concept as Slow Fashion. It encourages consumers to look closer at extremely cheap clothes, as it may be a result of low wages and poor conditions for employees who manufactured them. So brands nowadays have to be eco- and labor-friendly, and if they work with a 3PL partner, they should choose a reliable one, in terms of labor and sustainability. It’s not rare anymore that logistics providers are requested to include their Corporate Social Responsibility report to their responses for call for tenders.
Omni channel distribution
Internet has hugely changed consumer behavior by offering the possibility of buying clothes on the internet. Fashion manufacturers have made a huge effort to provide an excellent online shopping customer experience, by simplifying exchange and return policies and by providing inexpensive and fast deliveries. So consumers are no longer afraid of buying clothes online, as they can easily exchange or return it if the size is not right, for example.
This tendency of using multiple channels
(stores, web, catalogue, mobile) while making a purchase has driven companies to implement Omni-channel supply chain.
There are multiple challenges that companies are facing in that direction:
- Design a flexible distribution system, able to fulfil orders across channels (e-commerce, brick and mortal stores, wholesalers, retailers)
- Ensure real-time inventory visibility.
When we talk about high-value items, it is essential to ensure necessary level of security. So logistics providers have to give careful consideration to this aspect in every step of supply chain. In the warehouse there are numerous ways to prevent thefts, losses and damages: video surveillance, protective cages, access control for operators.
At the stage of transportation and delivery of the goods, secure trucks can be used: they can be equipped with special lock-up systems to prevent thefts, like a hatch operated from the inside, for example. The implementation of TAPA (Transported Asset Protection Association) certifications can also contribute to supply chain security.
This list of challenges is surely not exhaustive. Taking into consideration the increasing speed-to-market pressure, the majority of fashion brands and retailers prefer to entrust their supply chain management to 3PLs and focus on their core business. This allows them to keep their customers happy with their outstanding fashion collections.