Jul 23 , 2020
Change is the only constant. But in present day, change does not occur by choice but by ‘force’, which is beyond anyone’s control and which has put the world on pause. The apparel retail industry had needed a transformation in its perspective, a change in its operations. This was procrastinated for long until COVID-19 stepped in and has now accelerated the thought process of revolutionising the entire lifecycle of the industry. A lot of companies are being replaced globally, a lot are seeking Chapter 11 (US bankruptcy code 11), quite a few have closed doors for good, and still there are a few surviving on tenterhooks. So is COVID-19 only to blame for the increasing mortality rate of apparel retail businesses?
Close to a decade ago during my post graduate course for supply chain, I had conducted a research on Inditex’s fashion brand Zara. It was impressive then and even now how the Swedish brand has the shortest turnaround times and how well planned and executed its supply chain is. Year after year Zara is used as an example of being the smartest and stylish brand that does not own much inventory, which delivers trends fastest and maintains moderate pricing. Its model is studied and commended, but the surprising part is why no other retailer, specifically in the United States, is able to make and follow the Zara model.
Shorter lead-time is not the only challenge to deal with as global e-commerce has increased 600 per cent since 2010. The change of stride with e-commerce luring the shoppers has affected major retailers, forcing them to downsize their brick-and-mortar presence. Sales have declined and the brands are losing their presence in the retail world. Many businesses are closing down, there is brand identity clash for the ones that want to move out of the prevailing image. So what is not working for these companies to bring shoppers back to their stores? Today’s shopper is savvy, price conscious, yet stylish. She wants to stand out in the crowd, wants a personal stylist but doesn’t want to dig her pocket out for it. She doesn’t want to go to a mall to satisfy her shopping needs; she is from the digital era and window shops with numerous tabs every day. She knows what she wants and where to look for it. She is her own stylist! She knows today’s fashion leaders, her fashion role models and is familiar with e-tailers like Amazon to get the off-season/seasonal merchandise in latest trend and best price.