The fashion industry is going through restructure. As fashion brands become more digital, it gets harder for the old rules to work. Collections, seasons, fashion weeks, buyers, magazine editors – everything and everyone are challenged these days, and inevitably many processes will be redefined, and many positions will lose their power. Some new trends emerging are as follows.
No more seasons. The chase after Spring, Fall, Resort and Pre-Fall seasons is pointless when you have chains like H&M and Target coming up with collections every week or so. Many of them cross the lines between winter and summer, and their pieces could be mixed and matched. Examples: Jimmy Choo for H&M, Rodarte and Zac Posen for Target – all included dresses that could be worn both during summer and winter, not to mention open sandals sold by H&M in December… Dividing collections by seasons might not make much sense in this fast paced environment. Although the way we dress is still influenced by the weather outside, it doesn’t mean designers have to introduce them all at the same time, twice a year during their regional fashion week.
Opening of the two -way street. For the last few decades fashion brands pushed the product at the consumer, shooting in the dark, praying for the support of fashion editors, and then hoping the consumers will listen. If consumers didn’t listen – there was always another season… In the age of social media brands finally have the opportunity to listen and adjust their product accordingly. By acquiring more Twitter followers, Facebook fans and subscribers, brands are basically building their own focus groups. These focus groups could be a huge advantage for smart brands who are willing to change dramatically the way they work and utilize consumer’s feedback into the product in the early stage. It could be as radical as designers sharing the sketches online and asking consumers for voting and feedback. This connects directly to the importance of building brand loyalty. Those who fear for their ideas to be stolen should focus on building a stronger brand following instead, so their customers will never buy a fake or look-alike somewhere else.
Democratization of Fashion is emerging as an important trend. So it’s no longer determined by a few fashion pundits in a few fashion weeks, what the rest of the world will wear. Now, every person has the ability to become a fashion influencer thanks to social media and blogging. Fashion Blogs and Blog shops is where you will probably end up researching if you want to find what’s trendy! The concept of social media influencers and social media celebrities is changing the way fashion is going to be consumed.
The short product lifecycle or what is referred to as shelf life in retail parlance puts a lot of pressure on the buyers to cut their risks of having unsold inventory at hand and resorting to heavy discounting to clear the stock. They need to respond to market needs more closely. This has led to the delayed differentiation strategy which means your customer would like to delay as much as possible the final commitment on orders and colors and sizes, and have the flexibililty to make changes in accordance with market demands. You will encounter many such requests in your career as a merchandiser from your buyers.
From a manufacturer’s point of view, change spells trouble. It affects productivity, causes additional work, and chances of errors increase. However, you would do well to understand that as the fashion business becomes more and more challenging, this is something you will need to live with, accept and even respond to. Flexibility from vendors will be a key criterion in buyer’s list when making decisions regarding vendor choices and vendor partnerships.
Merchandisers in today’s apparel supply chain industry therefore need to develop effective change management skills. The ability to deal with and respond to changes in a professional manner will be key factor in deciding the profitability of your company as well as in enhancing your career growth.