Fashion On-Demand Traditional vs. Digital Retail

New digital retail business formats have generated limitless experimental business opportunities


Translating Creative Concept to Mass Market Appeal:

As the Design Director for my company, one of my most insightful responsibilities involves traveling to various domestic and international locations throughout the year to see what fashion trends are being shown in other major metropolitan cities.

Whether it be looking at product in high end designer stores, what the mass market retailers are selling and independent boutiques are showing, attending trade shows for fabrics and yarns, checking out artistic individuals who are starting bootstrap businesses at local weekend markets, and just watching what the locals are wearing–this is all part of the job.

Funneling through all of this information gives a broad sense of what will be coming down from high end/streetwise fashion to the mainstream. This information filtered will end up being incorporated into how we address trends for the U.S. apparel market.

Being able to compile all new information about what is going on in your product field from high level to grass roots/street level and as well keeping an eye on your competition sets you up to be an important resource to your clients.

Best Retail Outlets for Execution of Fast Track Trend Information:

Some of the more young fashion and contemporary updated retailers as well as retailers who have one or more of the following abilities–turning orders to finished goods on their selling floors quickly (4 months and under), working at higher price points, and are not tied to buying in such high quantities will be able to use this information and adapt it immediately into inspiring fashion forward product. They are constantly on the look-out for new styling to offer their customers.

Although any vendor, small business or large, desires to do business with the large volume mass retailers, much of the new forward trend information I cull together becomes diluted and highly edited down by the nature of trying to balance the potential success of new on trend offerings with being able to sell through large quantities of “safe” clothing at their expected markups.

They are buying most of their goods in large quantities and buying early enough in advance to secure better prices when production capacity is not at a peak premium price.

This means stores can either profit more for themselves and/or pass on cost savings to their customers. The downside to this is that by buying so far out in advance and buying in such bulk quantity, these stores cannot take risks on highly trendy concepts because the risk of buying so many units would be detrimental if their customer votes no to that item.

And because by the nature of fashion–just imagine if when you booked your order in December for 100,000 pieces of a beautiful merino wool poncho at a low downtime production price so that you could have a beautiful item on your selling floor for September–what you thought would be the most desirable item could potentially change in that 9 month period of time.

Fashion is fickle and no one in their right retail mind would even pretend to have a crystal ball to see what customers will be responding to that far out in advance. That is why working in tighter production windows with shorter lead times can serve to be a manufacturer’s best asset.

Smaller to mid level stores who do not buy in super high volume quantities and work on shorter lead times have better agility to react more quickly to new information vs. the large retailers and can sometimes take more risks with their choices

Safe Design: No Risks

Because of the safe, least risk way these large retailers must function to be able to maintain large amounts of on order goods to keep their stores full, we start to see many private label store brands becoming so homogenized.

It is certainly still a big part of what I do everyday- to give them some type of newness within their product needs that they feel will attract their customer, but at the end of the day, it becomes their final choice to decide how far they can truly push the envelope and feel comfortable to hit their projected profits. But frankly, with this limited approach, many of these retail giants are putting out very similar types of apparel which does not seem to give customers enough interesting choices.

It becomes a case of which store has it cheaper instead of who has something so unique that I just have to have it no matter what! One side effect of this which would seem to correlate is seeing how the American retail scene has taken some major hits and the continuation of store consolidation.

The challenges faced by large retail brick and mortar stores keeps them from being able to distinguish themselves from each other. The consolidation of stores means that apparel manufacturers need to find alternative, creative ways to get their products to market.



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