Fast Fashion, Furious Fashion Logistics

fast-fashion.jpgOne of the biggest trends we've seen over the past few years — with 2012 being no exception — has been the emergence of "fast fashion." You've probably seen manifestations of the trend at global chains such as H&M and Forever 21 — places where apparel selections are ever-changing and (usually) cheap.

Here's how the New York Times described the model being pioneered by Inditex, the massive Spanish parent company of several fast-fashion retailers, including Zara: "trendy and decently made but inexpensive products sold in beautiful, high-end-looking stores."

Fast fashion has also become more hip in recent years; even celebrities like Kate Middleton have been photographed wearing Zara. “It’s generally the way the retail market is going — it’s not just Zara,” says Isabel Cavill, a senior analyst with Planet Retail, a consulting firm based in London. “There’s a bit of cachet in picking up something that looks like £500 for £50.” If people compliment your nice dress, you can proudly boast that you got it for a steal.

In Zara, every purchase is an impulse buy; there’s no longer any saving up for that gorgeous leather jacket in the window. You are buying clothes not because you love them, but because, at $50, those hot pants are as cheap as Sunday brunch for two — and likely to be gone in a matter of days. It’s a way of consumption that has conditioned buyers to expect this up-to-the-minute trendiness and variety in higher-end labels as well.

For some retailers, the idea is to respond to shifts in fashion as quickly as possible by pumping out new product lines after new product lines, with less emphasis on season or traditional production cycles. Whenever something new gets strutted down the runway in, say, Paris, Milan or New York, fast-fashion retailers try to get something similar in stores before the buzz begins to wane.

For other retailers, the idea is to flood stores with new selections so often that customers know that there will always be new garments available from one week to the next. Still others, including Inditex, focus on customer responses to product lines and updating the garments accordingly:

A brand at Inditex will make a fall collection, for example, and then ship only three or four dresses or shirts or jackets in each style to a store. There’s very little leftover stock, few extra-smalls or mediums hiding in the back. But store managers can request more if there’s demand. They also monitor customers’ reactions, on the basis of what they buy and don’t buy, and what they say to a sales clerk: “I like this scooped collar” or “I hate zippers at the ankles.” Inditex says its sales staff is trained to draw out these sorts of comments from their customers. Every day, store managers report this information to headquarters, where it is then transmitted to a vast team of in-house designers, who quickly develop new designs and send them to factories to be turned into clothes.

To successfully run any of these sorts of operations, however, there is simply no room for logistical error. Fast fashion products tend to be relatively inexpensive and profit margins tend to be slow, so business models put a heavy emphasis on volume. Considering the scale and complexity of the most popular retailers' supply chains, a proper global fast fashion operation needs to be impressive in both garment production and distribution.

Indeed, the facilitation of fast fashion operations has become one of the most impressive apparel supply chain management feats since cavemen first began putting armholes in mammoth pelts. It can only be done with cutting edge fashion logistics — the type of apparel 3PL services that we here at the Apparel Logistics are proud to provide.

Posted: 1/21/2013 4:47:01 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

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