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Arming The Merchant Prince with Data

The apparel industry is hyper-focused on data and how to use it in decision making to eclipse the capabilities of gut feel. But the reality is, it’s not one or the other. Both creativity and data must work hand in hand in order to deliver the product consumers want in the time frame in which they’re demanding it.

Sourcing Journal founder and president Edward Hertzman sat down with First Insight’s CEO Greg Petro and veteran merchant executive Andrew Clarke to discuss how data can help product developers and suppliers improve accuracy and speed.

And thanks to the internet, the pressure’s on.

If shoppers see something on a celeb one day, they want to wear it the next. That instant gratification can’t happen with long lead times and layers of decision making. Clarke credits data with allowing his fast-fashion teams to pick up on consumer demand earlier and more accurately, enabling him to slash timelines from weeks to days.

“The role of the merchant has evolved, though it’s still very much about picking winners but doing that with the help of technology to do that more consistently,” Clarke said.

But getting those goods into stores requires that suppliers and factories are also cued into these insights. Petro said without them, the industry will always be plagued with the inventory challenges it faces too often today.

“There’s a concept called the bullwhip effect… when a manufacturer doesn’t understand what a brand or wholesaler is trying to create, and the wholesaler doesn’t know what the consumer is actually going to demand through their channel, each of those build buffers of inventory and consequently, there’s enormous waste,” Petro said.

On the other hand, data allows retailers to mitigate that risk by making it possible to pick up signals early.

Watch the video to learn about data’s impact on the future of the “Merchant Prince,” improving retail win rates and getting inventory into its “most efficient state.”