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Apparel Retail Spring Sales = Supply Chain Challenge

It looks like Mother Nature gave the apparel industry a bit of a gift this spring. According to Mrketplace:

spring-apparel-retail.jpgUnseasonably warm weather, an earlier Easter holiday and rising consumer confidence helped lift retail sales in March, according to the latest Commerce Department figures, marking a positive start to spring.

Official data showed March retail sales were 0.8% higher than in February, with total sales for the first three months of the year coming in 6.4% higher than a year ago. Sales at apparel stores increased 0.9% on February, and were 7.9% higher than March last year. Retail sales growth at apparel stores in the first quarter of 2012 was 7.9% up on the same period the year before. March sales at department stores edged up 0.3% month-on-month, and 0.7% year-on-year. […]

“Consumers have demonstrated the desire and ability to spend on discretionary items, further helping to spur economic and retail sales growth in the first quarter of 2012,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

This is unquestionably great news for apparel manufacturers and apparel retailers alike – for obvious reasons. But it also highlights another point about just how important a flexible, responsive supply chain is – there’s simply an unending number of factors than can significantly affect customer behavior.

In other words, that plan you had to have everything in stores and ready to roll out when April showers brought May shoppers? Better luck with your back-to-school specials.

Here’s the problem: Unseasonably warm weather doesn’t add a shopping cycle to the year. It simply shifts everything up a couple months. While a prolonged warm season might lead to a mild uptick in overall purchases of spring and summer apparel, most folks aren’t going to re-buy their summer wardrobes when April rolls around. They’ll just buy the bulk of it in February or March instead.

Except for notorious annual sales or events like sales tax-free weekends, people don’t usually plan shopping their habits or trips weeks or months in advance. Instead, they just decide to go buy a couple new pairs of shorts and a blouse or two while packing for that first (even if unseasonably) warm weekend out at the lake after looking in their closet and finding only jackets and jeans. Time to go buy some tees. The rise of e-commerce makes this easier and easier to do.

Naturally, this poses a big challenge for apparel companies, and it can easily catch unprepared companies that are plagued by poor apparel supply chain logistics flat-footed (probably still in snow boots).

So unless you, say, know something that every weatherman -- ever -- doesn’t and can feel unexpected weather shifts in your bones three months ahead of time, you’re better off investing in an agile, responsive supply chain. Here at The Apparel Logistics Group, our innovative third party logistics services for apparel companies can give you the supply chain management capabilities needed to detect coming shifts, respond to unexpected ones, and thrive.

Posted: 5/4/2012 11:26:15 AM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


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