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Borrowing a Page from the Fast Fashion Supply Chain

Four secrets that all companies can borrow and use from the fast fashion playbook.

Used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends, “fast fashion” is a term that retailers like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 are embracing and benefitting from. But what many customers who buy and wear these retailers’ trendy fashions don’t know is that there is a sophisticated, streamlined supply chain driving those new designs from the catwalk to the retail floor in a timely manner.

“Over the last year or so, fast fashion companies have gained tremendous market share from consumers in search of the hottest trending item at the best price,” according to global trade management (GTM) software provider Amber Road’s recent ebook, Fast, Faster, Fastest:  Learning from the Fast Fashion Groundbreakers. “These companies have executives from every industry—not just fashion—talking about the need for speed.”

Here, the company reveals some of the secrets behind fast fashion’s ability to speed up the supply chain, maintain good visibility at all times, and get products to customers as quickly as possible:  

  • Reduce cycle times by streamlining the design cycle. Supply chains like Gloria Jeans, Zara, and H&M are “rocking” the production cycle, Amber Road reports, and turning out products from design to store in an average of 25 days. Rather than produce multiple “hard copy” samples, these firms are using 3D renderings and high-resolution imagery for their high-level design concepts. “Through strong collaboration and web-based tools, manufacturers can turn out a prototype in five days based on solid design requirements,” the software provider reports.
  • Maintain end-to-end visibility across the product lifecycle. “Creative, production, and shipment decisions need to be made in real-time via a cloud-based solution for better information sharing both electronically (XML, EDI, etc.) and via web portals.”
  • Collaborate via a shared data platform. By integrating data both internally and across all trading partners, that data can be captured one time and then reused over and over again, the company states. “This eliminates the need in having to re-key data many times throughout the supply chain, reducing time, cost, and potential errors.”
  •  Seek out opportunities to improve. By leveraging analytics, historical global supply chain information can be mined to determine value points like cost, speed, and risk, Amber Road reports. “For instance, identifying large duty savings opportunities via preferential trade agreements or transportation spend opportunities.”

All industries can borrow a page from fast fashion, according to the software provider. “In today’s world where nearly every consumer industry is moving to an on-demand model, if you aren’t looking to fast fashion for inspiration, you will need to catch up,” Amber Road concludes in its ebook. “This is the industry that is closest to the consumer and can react to trends and expectations with the lowest price, fastest delivery, highest quality, and lowest risk.”

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