Is ultrafast fashion a thing – seriously?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a recent article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
A report recently arrived in my e-mail heralding the arrival of ultrafast fashion — online-only retailers ostensibly able to produce merchandise in two to four weeks, compared to five weeks for Zara and H&M.
Traditional retailers, on the other hand, can produce merchandise in six to nine months, according to estimates by Fung Global Retail and Technology, the report’s author. I think that number is low. Actual numbers from H&M’s financial statements also tell us that only a portion of their product is produced in a true fast-fashion manner.
Nevertheless, if two-to-four weeks is possible, the apparel industry is in big trouble.
But is it? There’s an old adage in the application development industry that says there are three variables to development: speed, accuracy and cost. You can have any two, but not all three. You can go fast and get it right, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money. For cheap and accurate, it’s going to take a lot of time. Finally, fast and cheap isn’t going to get what you’re looking for most of the time.
I think this axiom also applies to apparel. Sure, you can produce small lots of test product and see how it sells, and then, if you’re sourcing close enough to the point of demand, go ahead and make more, but that’s going to cost money. And if you’re going to be a pure online play (which the examples cited are: Boohoo, ASOS and Missguided), you’re going to have to find some major influencers to blast information on your product out to the masses across social media really quickly. Otherwise, the marketing will cost a fortune.
Finally, if you’re going terrestrial (i.e., stores) in any way, that’s going to add time to the process.
There is no doubt the apparel industry has to get faster and more responsive to ever-changing tastes. The consumer is growing more, not less, fickle.
Retail needs savvy merchants, up-to-date technology, trend advisors and responsive supply chains. It really is time to overspend on technology to enable rapid response across the value chain. Twenty year-old technology isn’t going to do the job anymore. There’s no avoiding it, whether or not superfast fashion really becomes a thing.
- Ultrafast Fashion: Seriously? – RSR Research
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think it is possible to successfully bring apparel to the mass market even faster than fast-fashion merchants are doing today? Which technology solutions or processes will help speed reaction times to trends?