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Coat of many colours: Managing multi-variant fashion

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Fast fashion – the art of bringing on trend, affordable clothing quickly to market – has been a heavenly development for cost-conscious, fashion forward shoppers but a big headache for retailers. Here Tony Bryant, Head of Business Development at K3 Retail looks at some of the options available to retailers.

Forrester recently reported that the European online retail sales will reach €233.9 billion by 2018, up from €134.9 billion in 2013 so the race is on to ensure retailers are able to meet this explosion.

But getting garments to market quickly is incredibly complex considering the variety in style, colour, size and fit – one product can consist of up to 200 variants.

For fast fashion retailers, timing is everything; research by Bain & Co has revealed that the average industry markdown on overstock is around 50% but fast fashion retailers only sell 15% of remaining stock at a discounted price.

With trends coming and going incredibly quickly, many brands and retailers have increased their buying cycles. In the 1980s the industry moved in four buying cycles, in the 1990s 3-5 mid-season cycles were introduced, and these cycles have increased again in the 2000s; for example, Zara now operates in 12 buying cycles per year.

This fast movement throws up some logistical considerations for retailers, for instance control of the quantity and quality throughout the process. Turnaround can only be sufficiently quick if they are able to gain an accurate, straightforward overview of production, fulfillment and inventory, so they have complete awareness of what is going to which store or distribution centre at what time.

Establishing the distribution of fashion items is also an increasingly complex process. The increased number of garments being offered by retailers has led to regional and channel trends emerging, which will impact the deployment of products.

While there is an element of setting the trends, retailers can only drill down into a deeper level of detail with historic data, so that they can make accurate forecasting based on this.

With multi-variant fashion in particular, retailers must respond not only to what has been before, but what is happening now; knowing where products are selling out and where there is overstock could prove crucial to reducing markdowns. Being able to link inventory to order management systems and point of sale correlates transactions with product availability, potentially allowing retailers to re-distribute items to areas needed.

There are a number of management systems out there that enable the above capabilities, but for multi-variant fashion retailers there are some important considerations to bear in mind:

• Flexible matrix • Faster order entry processing/replenishment • Simple aggregated view to deal with multiple products • User defined parameters for different roles within the business

With a flexible and scalable solution such as K3 Retail’s ax|is fashion built on Microsoft Dynamics AX, fashion and apparel enterprises can benefit from a tailored environment in which to gain insight and control over all processes and channels to market.

Customised tools, pre-configured to align to specific fashion tasks and processes, can drive agility and productivity. The latest out-of-the-box fashion functionality means no need for extensive back-end configuration resulting in a shorter implementation cycle and quicker return on investment.

With such systems in place, forward thinking retailers can remain ahead of the game and make use of insight for greater control while remaining agile enough to maximize production.

Published on Tuesday 07 October by Editorial Assistant
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