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Why a Digital Supply Chain Helps Retailers Meet Consumers’ Desires for Fresh, New Fashion

Today’s shoppers, particularly the youngest consumers, desire “newness”—or new items—more than ever before, as illustrated in McKinsey’s “The State of Fashion 2019.” One in three women consider clothes “old” after wearing them once or twice. Despite shoppers buying 60 percent more clothing than they did 15 years ago, consumers keep that clothing for only half as long.

To survive in this environment, retailers must meet consumer expectations for fresh, new fashion as they deliver products when, where and how shoppers want them. A digital supply chain platform can help fashion retailers meet these expectations, while ensuring they do not sacrifice product quality or take shortcuts to put product safety or compliance at risk.

How can digital supply chains do this? Here are a few examples.

Benefits of a digital supply chain platform

Efficiency in line planning

More efficient line planning and product development are essential for ensuring products are available when, where and how consumers want them, because line plans ensure designers are focused on the most desirable products. With real-time visibility throughout an enterprise, all teams can be synchronized to ensure an on-time product launch.

Compliance with calendars and deadlines

Fashion design and manufacturing involves hundreds of related steps. If one deadline slips, repercussions are felt throughout the entire supply chain. Calendar and deadline compliance can be improved with the workflow calendars and exception reporting found in digital supply chain platforms.

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Positioning of raw materials

With a digital supply chain platform, retailers can forecast raw material requirements, place commitments with multiple suppliers and draw down commitments as purchase orders are issued and materials are consumed. This reduces the risk of holding too much or too little inventory to meet downstream demand or keeping unused inventory for unacceptable lengths of time.

Testing and product compliance

Testing and compliance processes are complicated and difficult to manage without digital solutions. A digital supply chain platform can streamline the entire testing process, including requesting, tracking, submitting and approving product tests, as well as creating compliance documents.

Better vendor management and sourcing relationships

Improving vendor management means improving turnaround time on production. A digital supply chain platform can help streamline vendor onboarding and compliance, allowing companies to monitor vendor performance and thus strengthen relationships with their most strategic partners. Dual-sourcing strategies can be leveraged, helping retailers continue to source their long-lead time products from Asia, while relying on factories in Central America or Mexico for rapid replenishment of goods.

Quality management improvements

Retailers can’t afford to lose consumer trust due to poor product quality. Integrating quality management into a digital supply chain platform will help companies identify qual­ity problems before the goods leave the factory, reducing can­cellations, chargebacks and returns. With quality management systems and tablet computers, companies can schedule audits, inspect partial PO quantities, attach photos and comments to inspection records and electronically approve inspection reports.

WIP tracking improvements

Workflow calendars and exception reporting can improve Work in Process (WIP) tracking by allowing users throughout an enterprise—from designers, managers and executives in the home office to agents and factories overseas—to view the current status and instantly receive alerts when deadlines aren’t met. Modern WIP tracking can shave several weeks off production by replacing emails and spreadsheets for POs and production updates.

Omnichannel inventory visibility and fulfillment

Retailers must share information throughout the enterprise to ensure they meet consumer desires. Digital supply chains can provide unified visibility to the available inventory in each channel, allowing them to easily move products to the area generating the greatest demand.

Meet consumer demand for the newest fashion with a digital supply chain platform

All the benefits described above can help ensure that fashion retailers satisfy their customers’ desire for new, exciting fashion. Speed of execution and shared, real-time information are essential, and only a digital supply chain platform can help retailers move at the speed of the latest fashion trends. As shoppers increasingly focus on “newness,” digital platforms can help retailers deliver.

Mark Burstein is president of NGC Software, where he is responsible for product strategy and also leads the company’s sales, marketing and research and development operations. He has extensive industry experience in global sourcing and supply chain management and actively works with retailers and fashion brands on enterprise initiatives including lead time optimization, operational efficiency and digital supply chain strategies.