The apparel industry is made up of gigantic global brands and a smaller number of entrants, both online and brick-and-mortar vendors, that are growing rapidly and expanding quickly. US apparel manufacturers face increasing competition from overseas vendors who are penetrating the US market. According to Statista, “revenue in the Apparel market amounts to US$326,110m in 2018. The market is expected to grow annually by 2.3% (CAGR 2018-2021).” Amazon is becoming a bigger threat to apparel retailers, taking significant market share from the bigger, established brands. To succeed, apparel manufacturers need to improve their customer experience and offer unique, quality products at affordable prices.
Fashion designers also are accelerating their product pace from design concept to store shelf. The industry calls this “fast fashion,” where brands produce merchandise in weeks instead of months. One company, Fashion Nova, is able to design, manufacture and market is designs within one to two weeks. The issue is that “fast fashion” is becoming less popular as millennial and Gen-Z consumers focus on the harm to the environment “and human right issues that come hand-in-hand with the low-cost, high-speed manufacturing of inherently disposable fashion,” per The Fashion Law.
Fashion is becoming more high tech with smart clothing that can power smart devices. 3D printers are being used to create fashion; Adidas is printing shoes. The advantage of using 3D technology is that the 3D printed goods can be produced closer to the customer, shortening the distance for delivery. Companies like Stitch Fix and others are improving the customer experience by creating personalized recommendations of fashion based on a user’s preference.
Regardless of the brand and the speed that apparel is manufactured, one of the biggest bottlenecks to getting the products into the hands of consumers deals with the fulfillment process. Retailers with multiple stores, product lines and product types need to implement inventory positioning best practices to ensure SKUs are in the right store or facility at the right time to better meet customer service requirements. Inventory positioning is not guesswork; instead, data-driven analysis should be used to ensure inventory is available and correctly positioned for orders to be fulfilled properly and to eliminate out-of-stocks. Retailers also need to understand where they are wasting time in the fulfillment process and implement products and processes to speed fulfillment.
Fashion will become more eco-friendly as the world becomes more aware of the dangers to the environment from pollutants. Organic fabrics will become increasingly more popular as will biodegradable materials, such as Microsilk, which mimics real silk but uses less resources to manufacture. Blockchain technology will be used to keep track of raw materials and products in the supply chain and then allow payment processing via smart contracts. More retailers will use virtual reality tools to help consumers visualize what clothing will look like on their body without trying the clothing on. Fashion as a service will follow the crowdsourced model where clothing is shared, allowing consumers to save money while recycling clothing and shoes.
UNEX knows the apparel industry, supply numerous fashion manufacturers and distributors with solutions that improve order picking and storage. Contact UNEX today.