Posts Tagged 'Fast fashion'

Are social media driving the speed of trends?

The short answer to my own headline question (above) is “yes,” but there is a lot more to this issue. Here’s my comment from a recent RetailWire panel discussion:

Social media may be a factor in fashion trends going Aeand moving faster. But the influence of “fast fashion” retailers (Zara, Forever 21 and others) can’t be understated. They mastered their supply chain in order to bring new goods to the selling floor a lot faster, and in order to react to early test orders in a big way. Most traditional retailers built their logistics around long lead times, especially on private-brand goods, and are scrambling to catch up.

The idea of “speed to market” requires a change in mindset — affecting supply chain management, the willingness to chase big ideas, and the ability of retailers’ vendors to move just as fast.


Is there a market for “ultra-fast” fashion?

RetailWire panelists weighed in on the growing trend toward “ultra-fast” fashion. If the short lead times of fast fashion retailers (think Zara) aren’t short enough, how about two to four weeks from concept to delivery? And what sacrifices need to happen as a result? Here’s my comment:

Retailers have been too slow reacting to the fast-fashion capability of companies like Zara and Forever 21. These two companies (and a few others) have brought great supply chain management and data science to the art of getting relevant product to their customers quickly. But the key word here is “relevant”: Does a two-week lead time offer enough chance to test and reorder in depth?

Cost is another factor: Ultra-fast retailers will probably have to pay a premium for manufacturing labor close to their stores (especially in the U.S.), even if there is some offsetting saving on transportation. Fast turnaround makes sense if your store needs Stanley Cup championship jerseys tomorrow, but for the majority of goods a little extra time is worth the investment.

Two new fast fashion battlers?

There’s been plenty of attention paid to Forever 21 and H&M for the past several years, but it’s worth keeping an eye on Zara and Uniqlo as they expand their footprint in the U.S.  I commented recently on RetailWire that Zara has a competitive advantage in terms of product development and supply chain:

Zara has a big head start over Uniqlo in the U.S. retail market although it has plenty of room to grow vs. other fast-fashion competitors like Forever 21 and H&M. More importantly, speed to market is in Zara’s DNA. And they offer a modified “treasure hunt” approach to the merchandise, compared to Uniqlo’s approach of key items in lots of colors. Unless Uniqlo is prepared to change its philosophy, Zara has the edge.

It’s understandable that Uniqlo would want to benefit from what Zara already knows about fast turnaround of product development — supported by great logistics management — but it may not be as easy to imitate. Think of how many e-commerce sites aspire to the level of Amazon’s execution but can’t quite get it done.

Can The Gap make its own luck?

After the CEO of Gap mentioned the lack of a fashion trend as part of his company’s sales problems, I posted the following (late in 2016) to RetailWire:

To blame soft sales on “lack of a trend” fails to recognize the retailer’s responsibility to help create those trends. Back in the Drexler-led heyday of The Gap, the company helped create the khaki phenomenon by getting behind the item in a huge way and by marketing it on TV as a must-have wardrobe item. The same principle applied to many other items in the store — from my days merchandising handbags, I remember a canvas tote in a bunch of colors that the industry dubbed “the Gap Bag.”

It sounds like Gap is suffering from the suffocating influence of both its creative direction and its data science, making it hard for entrepreneurial spirit to thrive among its merchants. (And it also looks like Gap has been slower to embrace the short-cycle, high-turnover model of its fast fashion competitors.) Gut feeling can still work wonders to drive sales, if a retailer has the courage to react quickly to big ideas.

And (upon further review) some more thoughts as Gap released its 2016 earnings in February:

One quarter doesn’t make a trend, but the 2% gain compares favorably to most of Gap’s competitors. In terms of merchandise content, there seems to be a renewed focus on what I would call “core basics,” which is what brought such success to Gap during the 90’s. Without ignoring the lessons of fast fashion retailers (especially in terms of speed to market and supply chain management), Gap will probably continue to gain traction if it takes a more classic approach to the business.




Zara continues to impress

From a recent RetailWire panel discussion about Zara’s ongoing growth:

Zara’s mastery of supply chain to exploit trends has long been noted, but their targeting of a fairly broad customer base less so. They seem to straddle the sweet spot between Forever 21’s focus on what used to be called the “junior” customer, and H&M’s emphasis on more wear-to-work clothes.

As to store openings — at least in the U.S. — Zara has been more deliberate than its competitors, so its comps may reflect that it is not suffering from the same square footage overload as many other omnichannel retailers right now. But — as usual — it really comes down to merchandise content.

JCP parts ways with Mango (or vice versa)

The partnership between Penney and Mango (in the guise of its MNG brand) outlasted both the Ron Johnson era and the company’s recovery under Mike Ullman. But the two companies are parting ways, after several years of trying to bring a fast-fashion model to JCP. Here’s my recent RetailWire comment on the topic:

I’m surprised that the MNG initiative lasted as long as it did at JCP. It’s one of the few recent initiatives that preceded and then outlasted the Ron Johnson era, along with the more successful Sephora shops. Many stores continue to struggle with their “fast fashion” offerings, perhaps because their product development and sourcing models are different from the specialists in this area like H&M or Zara.

But JCP is taking another whack at fast fashion with the introduction of its Belle + Sky line, rolling out this fall. Maybe Penney feels that the upside potential on the margin side is higher without a partner requiring licensing fees and perhaps a share of revenues.

JCP, meet Joe Fresh

From a recent RetailWire discussion: JCP announced a collaboration with the Canada-based brand Joe Fresh. The shop installation will give JCP a bigger and potentially more successful footprint in the “fast fashion” world than Mango/MNG has provided so far. Here’s my reaction:

There has been plenty to criticize about the JCP “reinvention” but the Joe Fresh partnership can be a win. It does feel like the Topshop/Nordstrom partnership on a bigger scale.

But, as with everything related to JCP these days, there are some unanswered questions about execution:

1. How much market share will JCP continue to bleed before the “reinvention” is in place?
2. The process is unfolding at a snail’s pace, with the changes in place by the end of 2015…can JCP move any faster?
3. The announced shops are skewing “young” so far…will the holistic effect of the “new” JCP provide anything that appeals to its core consumer?

One more caution: Don’t be surprised to see other collaborations (Uniqlo shops inside Macy’s as a “hypothetical”) that can be executed at a faster rate of speed.