With the COVID-19 pandemic ushering in a rapid shift in shopper behavior, understanding consumer spending data is as important as ever to keeping up with apparel buying trends. Rhone, the performance men’s activewear retailer, has prided itself on being able to stay ahead of the curve and make quick-supply chain decisions based on changing shopper data.
Prior to the pandemic, Rhone built a matrix based on how customers were reacting to products, according to Kyle McClure, co-founding chief product officer at digitally native brand. Equipped with access to real-time updates, the men’s wear maker could immediately understand how consumers shopped differently before and during the pandemic.
“As you shift into the pandemic, you have people wearing T-shirts and sweatpants [during work hours],” McClure told Sourcing Journal in its latest ‘On the Ground’ video. “Maybe they’re wearing a dress shirt on a Zoom call, but they might just be wearing boxers. We started to see how that evolved and that data fed right into our supply chain and we worked with our suppliers on what was happened and how we needed to react. We had an incredible ability to impact inventory through the end of the year and pull things forward that were working, push things out that weren’t, cancel out-of-styles and repurpose that fabric into something that was resonating.”
McClure referenced a mantra that encapsulates Rhone’s mindset: “Noah built the ark before the flood.” Both he and co-founding CEO Nate Checketts put an early emphasis on data as a key driver enabling the brand’s dexterity and agility.
While it is obvious that apparel retailers and supply chains must establish trust if they want to maintain healthy relationships, especially now that some relationships have eroded due to retailers canceling and delaying orders at the onset of the pandemic, Rhone made it a point to stay in close communication with vendors well ahead of COVID’s known arrival in the U.S. Rhone had started open dialogue with its vendor base as early as January once the company heard rumblings of the upcoming crisis.
“If you aren’t on the phone with your factories, and you’re not best friends with your factory owner, then I feel bad for you,” McClure said.
In the conversation, McClure also shares why he feels Rhone, which generates the majority of its sales online, was well positioned to handle the uncertainties compared to traditional apparel retailers and wholesalers. He explains why the activewear retailer hasn’t rushed into building a bigger brick-and-mortar presence and instead prefers a conservative approach to physical expansion.
Check out more in Sourcing Journal’s new ‘On the Ground’ video series, which brings new and needed voices in the supply chain to the fore.