This month saw New York and London Fashion Weeks, two of the most anticipated events of the fashion world calendar. While undeniably still a focal point for the global fashion industry, fashion weeks have definitely lost some of their sway when it comes to setting the fashion agenda. With the rise of fast fashion, social media influencers and online shopping, customers want to see an item and be able to wear it the next day - a far cry from the fashion weeks of old which showcased next season’s styles, several months down the line.
In a global fashion and apparel sector worth $3 trillion, fashion weeks still have an important role to play with high-end fashion houses adapting their business models accordingly. But what about those fashion businesses who don’t have a show at any of the fashion weeks but who face the same pressure to get the right clothes to the right customers in super-fast time? It’s vital for these businesses to monitor not only the trends that are being rolled out but to also assess the subsequent customer reactions - something that’s much easier to do in these days of 24/7 social media platforms. How this information is then translated and fed back into the business is crucial, rapidly turning this insight into designs that are closely aligned to customer demand, all while shrinking lead times and maintaining healthy margins.
The key to all of this is not only having access to the right information at the right time, but having the business agility and flexibility to best use this information. Speed is of the essence, with the need to have the collective finger on the pulse being more important than ever before. Harnessing the power of information to underpin robust, effective decision making at every step of the way is vital.
For many forward-thinking fashion businesses, joined-up systems are going a long way to delivering the necessary levels of both agility and flexibility, bringing together all business processes within a single, centralized business management system. This serves to make the most of the available data to tell you not only what you should be producing and when, but if you’re producing garments in the most effective, efficient and profitable way.
While this has obvious benefits for the business as a whole, there is also real added value for the individual business processes that are part and parcel of everyday operations. So how can different roles and departments within the business benefit from this joined-up approach?
For a CEO to make the right decisions quickly and effectively, they need a comprehensive understanding of the entire operation in real time. Be it financial reports for up-to-date information on profit margins and cash flow, or the latest product developments, CEOs need access to the right information at the right time. There’s no longer any room for silos of information, with departmental transparency a must if decisions are to be based on accurate, timely information. The right centralized system ensures total business transparency, with instant access to joined-up information and insight enabling the business to keep up with fast-moving changes. This in turn increases business agility and takes full advantage of any investment opportunities, both of which serve to sustain long-term growth for the business.
Similarly, when it comes to the finance team, access to comprehensive, real-time information is a must. Over-squeezed margins mean that international growth is difficult while controlling costs, not to mention the constant pressure to meet a multitude of statutory and regulatory requirements that are just one of the challenges that result from operating internationally. With the correct joined-up systems in place, the finance team is given the tools necessary to facilitate real-time access to not only financial information but business-critical data, enabling the ongoing review of budgets and the stringent overseeing of financial operations. Increased automation eliminates time-consuming, manual processes, freeing-up the team to focus on more value-adding, strategic activities. By bringing together information from right across the business, financial decisions can be made quickly and with confidence - boosting business agility even further.
Accurate, timely information is crucial for the buying and merchandising teams as well. The uphill struggle to ensure the right inventory is in place as well as the need to improve forecasting accuracy makes life incredibly difficult when you’re managing information across different systems. The right software brings synchronicity throughout the product lifecycle, increasing visibility into the entire supply chain and ensuring inventory levels are synchronized with business forecasts. Forecasts that are more accurate than ever before thanks to the joined up nature of the system. This synchronicity enables faster, more targeted product development, speeding up time to market for the latest trends and increasing customer satisfaction.
For the design team, the constant pressure to discover up-and-coming trends while keeping up with customer demand and reducing time to market is an almost impossible balance to strike - especially when also trying to produce designs that are on-trend and profitable. The right system will integrate all back office functions, providing access to business-critical information for everyone involved in the product lifecycle. This means that designers can see from the outset full costings and budgets, designing not only ‘to trend’ but ‘to budget’ as well. This prevents any necessary amendments further down the line, speeding up the entire process and shortening lead times. The automation of mundane, manual tasks that is possible with the right software helps designers to become more agile too, reducing the time spent on excessive admin tasks and leaving them to focus on the design job in hand.
Fashion businesses need to strive to become as agile as possible, creating a seamless organization where timely, accurate, business-wide information is the driving force. By having the right systems in place to ensure the smooth flow of data and insight right across the business, the foundations are laid for sustainable business growth, securing that all-important competitive advantage in an increasingly complex marketplace.
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