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Up Close: In Conversation with Skypad CEO Jay Hakami

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Jay Hakami, CEO of sell-through data solution Skypad, discusses the importance of getting product availability right and the impact of the “data divide” between brand vendors and retailers.

Name: Jay Hakami

Title: CEO

Company: Skypad

What do you see as the top supply chain challenges for retailers and brands today?

The challenges that we see are clear. The B2B interaction between retailer and brands, in most cases, has not evolved since the 1960s, which hurts the retailer, brand and ultimately the consumer. Inaccuracy in forecasting consumer demand; lack of effective B2B digital tools; shortage in technical resources; business challenges, such as the inability to get the right goods, at the right time, at the right place; and in other situations, having too much inventory, leads to markdowns and defeats the need to address sustainability. These challenges derive from a lack of accurate and consistent B2B collaboration.

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From your experience as a consumer, what improvements would optimize the buying experience? 

Optimizing the buying experience starts with improved insights into consumer buying behavior. Retailers and brands must minimize situations where the product that I am specifically looking for has been sold out in my size, style and/or preferred color. When this happens, I will likely end up searching for a similar product from another retailer or brand. Product availability based on insights, by any combination of geographic location, product attributes and time dimension, leads brands and retailers to loyal and repeat consumer visits.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

Definitely the ‘60s! It was very chic, casual and stylish—a trend that started and still continues today.  

Who’s your style icon?

Believe it or not, Cher! This woman is always bold, unique and creative! What I love about her the most is how she always puts her fashion foot forward and takes risks. This is something I personally would never do!

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Skypad’s corporate culture is highly focused on our employees, exemplifying the “corporate clan culture”—very collaborative, empowering creativity, with a high focus on teamwork and welcoming ideas and contributions from all team members. Employee relationships, participation and company morale are at the forefront for Skypad. Our culture is very flexible, with a concentration on progressing with strong business ethics, willingness to embrace change and relentless customer focus.   

What can the retail industry and their suppliers learn from the Covid-19 pandemic?

To be prepared. Preparation prevents pain and panic. Brands and retailers must develop and maintain strong B2C and B2B digital capability to enable transactions to take place seamlessly online, at the brand’s company-owned store or their retail partners. The rush to increased focus on online sales was driven by the pandemic. As we learn to cope with the pandemic, along with foot traffic increasing again at the physical stores, plans should be made to ensure all online transactions and all in-store transactions can be easily addressed on either platforms by consumers. 

Skypad, being an SaaS company, was able to change the way it conducts business within hours, by having every staff member shift to work from home. Our subscribers around the globe have not experienced any change. Retailers and brands must develop contingency plans to address and ensure a similar experience with their consumers. Careful planning, and the ability to be agile with no disruptions, will let your customer feel more secure and loyal.  

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

Embracing B2B and B2C digital data insights and streamlining the reporting process to keep up with consumer behavior. There’s always been a struggle with meeting consumer demand. A big factor to this ongoing issue has been the data divide between brand suppliers and retailers. Many brand suppliers and retailers are still conformed to the old traditional ways of manual or inadequate reporting.

Retailers provide brands with product sales performance in a variety of different formats that are extremely unsecure, inconsistent, difficult to consume and require days, sometimes even weeks, to aggregate by the brands. The inability to view inventory and product sales trends on a weekly basis, every Monday morning for the previous week, results in delayed decision-making and actions that must be taken by both brands and retailers.  

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

The Skypad team has taken the necessary time to compile feedback from our customers to fully understand and appreciate their needs and wants. In response, just to name a few, we recently launched new and exciting end-user enhanced reporting capabilities, plus added new functionality to Skypad to address our subscribers in EMEA. This was a result of retailer partnerships we have established, providing beauty, cosmetics, home and off-price retailers with customized buyers insights. In addition, top of the new year, we are in process of launching B2B insights between retailers and brands that will rock the way retailers share insights.