Why fashion brands need to move faster now! And How?
Since the pandemic started we saw quite a few fashion labels that were not structured or focussed in a way that could help them navigate through the storm and survive it.
The result is not only small brands but also bigger ones going belly up and leading thousands of workers and families into unemployment and uncertainty.
From a creative standpoint, it is also the loss of some innovative designers or storytellers that were not supported by the right go-to-market strategy to face the coronavirus crisis.
Usually, I would be advocating for a slower fashion but when it comes to the actual operations driving the business, brands need to move faster, now!
Every day you see in the news another fashion label going under. In most cases, these companies going bankrupt were bad at one thing = being relevant in today’s economy.
The biggest change in consumer behavior in the past few years, which is today amplified by the COVID-19 crisis is the increase in online shopping. If you are a fashion brand today, you should be focusing your effort on E-commerce and how to develop online driven direct to consumer go-to-market strategies. Lockdown has forced consumers to buy online and a winter lockdown close to the festive season is the ultimate trigger for the part of the population that has been reticent into buying on the internet until now.
Another reason why brands need to move faster is the change in what customers need. The recent change in life conditions has triggered a need for different products. Brands with faster operations can be first on the trend.
Survival of the fastest
Once you understand that, it is all down to making the necessary changes, swiftly.
The main issue here is, that fashion companies usually have a complex supply chain with traditional models and extended teams playing around with large sets of data and wasting time in meetings.
Changing strategy, implementing new tools, recruiting, all this usually takes forever. Within the current economic environment, brands don’t have the luxury to wait and changes sometimes need to happen immediately.
Ramping your e-commerce strategy to capture the increasing online shopping frenzy driven by the work from home and confinements around the world takes time, so, speeding your operations up can bring extra revenue almost instantly.
It is however a paradox. I have been raised in the first few years of my business life with what my boss kept repeating to the team each time an issue arose:
However, in the current environment, this is unfortunately hardly applicable. Things have been changing now at a pace that requires teams to be more agile and open to changes so they could happen at a faster pace.
Ramping up an e-commerce platform, pushing orders to retailers, or simply adapt your retail footprint to the current demand are things that in practice can be initiated and built up fast.
Make a PLAN.
Any success story started with a plan or at least a goal. You need to define where you want to head to before going on your journey to your destination.
It does not mean that the plan is fixed but a good plan will allow you to adapt, change, re-route along the way so you can eventually get to where you want to be at.
You can hear quite often of businesses that have done a 180 change of direction along the way to adapt their business model to the current environment. Fashion should not be any different when it comes to the operational parts and how the machine works to deliver the final products to the consumers.
E-commerce these days could be seen that the u-turn that many fashion labels urgently need to do to keep selling their products.
Same with jumping on product trends that are generating revenue. The global lockdown has created new demands that need to be met fast for brands and retailers to survive through the pandemic.
Get the right skill set and tools. INVEST!
Once you have defined your plan, and preferably also your budget linked to that plan, it’s time to gear up. Starting with talent.
The labor market is currently a buyers/recruiters market but it won’t be forever.
Today, you can get your hands on amazing talents at a much better rate and they are eager to work. This flow of skilled workers is what you need to ramp up your operations and adapt to the new normal.
The biggest enemy to moving fast are the people in your teams who are emphasizing the fact that “we always do things progressively here” or “this is how it’s always been”, to protect the business or to be frank their current position.
But moving fast and taking risks in most cases pays off in multiple ways compared to any slow approach.
Have you checked your competition next door? They might already be two steps ahead of you and snatching all that talent off the streets to ramp up their expansion and adaptation.
You don’t need to clean up your teams and start fresh. But assessing the skills in house versus the goal is your first step. Then educate your staff or simply bringing one external element that has gone through the same changes you are trying to instill can elevate the entire existing team.
To move fast, you need great tools.
Fashion operations are hungry for IT systems and other tools that help process the information faster and get your products in the hands of the customer in a blink of an eye — or nearly.
Map your IT operations, clean up the non-essential things, and do not hesitate to invest in game-changing tools. E-commerce platforms don’t come cheap but they can offer endless possibilities in ways to engage with your customers.
From data handling designing, developing, producing, warehousing, packing, shipping, returning, you need to work on automatization and on ways that make your flow of information and product faster and more reactive.
Online marketing doesn’t come cheap either and can be an endless pit for your budget — partner with a specialist company to handle it properly.
You don’t need to hire and contract all these tools directly and have them in-house. To trigger a faster adaptation to the current market, using service providers and freelancers can accelerate tremendously the rhythm at which you are changing things
NO ONE likes change. If someone tells you that they love change, they are not being honest with you. All sorts of changes bring conflicts or at least some sort of resistance.
Have you tried to drastically change your morning routine? Did that make you happier? Did you feel that it was a natural step to do or did it require some motivation and buy-in to get into it?
Driving change is a tough business but as a leader, in fashion, it is your role to ensure that your teams are suffering the less through the transformation and support the change despite their resistance and fears.
Understanding change and then accepting it is where you want to bring all the stakeholders in your business. In that sense, fashion could be seen as an industry with an advantage over others since it is already driven by changes in trends and a short cycle around seasons.
MEASURE the results
Have you heard of KPI? Key Performance Indicators.
(in case you have been living in a cave for the past fifty years, here is a refresher)
The best way to see that you are on track to meet your goal is to define measurable elements linked to the goals you have set.
Revenue / Margins / Headcount and other fixed costs / Conversion rate / …
The list goes on and on. But there is little more satisfaction than hitting your goals and having KPIs going off the chart. This is what will also help you drive change within your team = showing and sharing the success.
Now you know... changing your ways of working during times like this can save your business. Focus on the essentials: