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, Miriam Molino Sánchez, head of global retail practice at master data management platform Stibo Systems, discusses weighing the sustainable impact of choices and how her company is making data more accessible and actionable.
Name: Miriam Molino Sánchez
Title: Head of global retail practice
Company: Stibo Systems
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
More companies are aiming to introduce cloud-based data management to get data on the fly and make decisions. Stibo Systems launched Data as a Service (DaaS), a cloud-based data distribution service focused on data delivery to high-volume data-consuming applications. With our DaaS offering, our customers’ data is always available, the right version and ready to be used at scale.
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Every industry handles its supply chain in a unique way according to the specificities of their business model. In industries such as oil and gas or telecom, infrastructure investments and operations drive long-term profitability. Aerospace is propelled by extreme quality control processes that affect the entire value chain, while consumer goods companies’ product innovation is closely linked to rising nutrition and ingredient regulations. There are many lessons learned for apparel coming from these industries, like optimizing investment decisions in manufacturing capacities and distribution centers, establishing solid quality compliance framework to be applied by suppliers and sustainable innovation in materials and processes, to name just a few.
However, apparel companies—especially fast fashion—are setting the pace for the rest of the industry in flexibility. Apparel is a world of ever-shorter life cycles and uncertainty linked to the very definition of fashion. Fashion companies have managed to create a set of capabilities to maximize flexibility: product testing in a limited number of shops, vertical integration up to a certain level, “open to buy” agreements with suppliers, an adequate balance of off-shore and near-source, highly optimized transportation systems and super-coordinated processes from trend capture to product delivery.
In a context where uncertainty has been elevated to its maximum power, flexibility, resilience and a strong risk management capability are the new normal for governing supply chain processes.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
As a fashion industry consultant for many years, I learned a side of the business most people don’t. I developed a sense of the dynamics of cost versus price, the high margins, the intended volatility of fashion, etc., and prefer to buy when there’s a very good sale and move on to more basics. I’m more driven by the design of the product than the brand. I also try to be a sustainable consumer, reducing the number of purchases I make and choosing organic products for food and beauty.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
For me, it’s the service, and by service, I mean reliability. The products should be delivered on time and match up to what the company promises. Transparency from an information perspective and clarity from a process perspective go a long way to winning—and keeping—customer loyalty.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
I’ve found myself moving more towards comfort. That doesn’t mean I don’t wear my high heels, but those heels are a little shorter than they used to be. I think that’s aligned with the trends right now—comfort and sport is in. I want to feel comfortable moving from day into night, wearing the same look whether I’m at work or meeting up with friends after.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Probably this one, because we can mix in nostalgic looks from other eras. You might put on a dress from the ’60s one day, and a crop top from the ’90s the next. We’re in an era of eclecticism.
Who’s your style icon?
Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn—no matter what they wore, they wore it with elegance.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Stibo Systems has made a huge push to align to the objective of serving and responding to our customers’ specific business issues. We offer the best software-as-a service solution for master data on the market, and we must innovate around concerns from the industry, such as sustainability, at the same time creating vertical practices around our core industries: retail, manufacturing, CPG and distribution.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
We are home to highly innovative people. In a world that’s constantly changing, we are energized by collaborating as teams while also prioritizing independent thinking. We measure our success by the success of our customers. As a global organization, all cultures, backgrounds and experiences are absolutely welcome here.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
The world can and does change overnight. Businesses must be able to adapt, through the lenses of technology, processes and culture. We must act, even if we don’t feel fully prepared for what is to come. It’s time for agility and flexible and intelligent processes but also for balanced risk-taking and courageous mindsets.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Sustainability, no doubt, but from a realistic perspective. Sustainability must no longer be pitted against profitability, and change must be disruptive enough to make an impact but conservative enough to maintain the business. Customer reeducation in sustainable consumption, new materials and circularity, resale and second life initiatives, supplier support programs—sustainability has many different faces.
There are other areas of concern for the apparel industry, such as keeping a steady pace in incorporating automation and AI in all business processes to gain agility and reduce costs, digitalizing certain phases of product development to reduce costs and speed up time to market and exploring the new possibilities brought by metaverse technologies.
What keeps you up at night?
I have two daughters, and I often worry about leaving them with a world with greater challenges than I’ve experienced. We are all responsible for sustainable growth. We should pause and think hard about the impact on our planet of the things we do, products we choose to buy and companies we work for.
What makes you most optimistic?
There are things we can all do to make a difference. The journey towards sustainability sometimes feels so overwhelming, but we can start by making little changes. From a business side, it’s exploring different type of materials, changing production processes, setting up new relationships with manufacturers and suppliers. It’s not easy to change existing business models, but that’s where technology comes in. That’s the key challenge – each company must find its own way of progressing toward being profitable while also being sustainable.