See Now, Buy Now Doesn’t Have to Be a Logistics Nightmare for Fashion Brands

Recently, the fashion industry has been shifting toward a “see now, buy now” model, wherein the latest styles are immediately available for purchase as they’re unveiled on the runway. Although the shift has caused a surge in sales for some brands, it’s also put a serious strain on supply chain logistics. But with better inventory management through an IoT-enabled solution, brands can make “instant fashion” a reality now, rather than in the future.

Transforming Production Cycles

Traditionally, it would take around six months for a designer’s fresh collection to hit the shelves after debuting at a fashion show. But this has caused issues for luxury brands, as it then gives the mass-market labels time to “take inspiration” from the luxury designers. Within this period, fast fashion brands are able to produce similar, if not identical, designs that hit stores at around the same time as, or even before, luxury labels.

The “see now, buy now” model is essentially the luxury fashion industry’s way of giving fast-fashion a run for its money, making the real thing available before the copycats.

Burberry was the first major brand to test the concept, in September 2016. At the time, the British label’s creative director, Christopher Bailey, announced the firm would debut a “seasonless” collection combining both men’s and women’s wear, with pieces of the collection available across brick-and-mortar stores and online the following day. In the same month, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger followed suit, presenting their first immediately-shoppable runway shows.

Despite the considerable restructuring costs associated with the new model, the concept proved successful. Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, Avery Baker, claimed web traffic to increased by 900 percent in two days of unveiling the new, appropriately-named collection, “Tommy Now.”

Logistics Nightmare

Today, fashion brands have seen much success thanks to the “see now, buy now” model. Take Italian luxury fashion house Moschino, whose business is now made up of 10 percent “see now, buy now” sales. However, while it’s a growing trend in the fashion industry, offering customers the entirety of a collection to purchase right away, it doesn’t come without challenges. In particular, without having the time to gauge which garments will be in demand once a collection launches, as you would with the traditional model, there’s the potential problem of sitting inventory, meaning that some items that never make it to sale. And as Jane Hali, CEO of retail research investment firm Jane Hali & Associates, notes, sitting inventory, which is just taking up space and wasting money, is a huge cost to brands.

Said Jane: “As having been a buyer for most of my career, I can tell you: The later you order the merchandise, the smarter you are. If you have long lead times, you’re not going to make the right decisions. You can’t have a warehouse full of inventory just sitting around until a customer is interested.”

Fashion house Tom Ford has run into similar problems, having to keep clothes off the racks until the day after the show, losing a full month of selling with merchandise just sitting in the stockrooms. In March this year the company announced that it was pulling out of the “see now, buy now” model, citing “a logistical nightmare” thanks to misguided delivery timing.

Inventory Management

Underlying the “logistics nightmare” of “see now, buy now” is the challenge of inventory management. The good news is that this can readily and easily be solved for brands through an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that offers increased visibility and traceability, while providing greater analytics and creating one-to-one connections with end-consumers.

By giving individual apparel products unique digital identities, managed by an intelligent cloud platform, fashion brands are able to better understand demand trends and improve their inventory management to make “see now, buy now” possible. Smart product technology connects anyone throughout the supply chain to each unique item and gives greater insight into where that item needs to be at every step along the way.

As an example, let’s say a customer living in New York City is watching the Ralph Lauren runway show via an interactive video. The customer sees a t-shirt she wants to buy, so she clicks on it. And because the brand knows her geo-location, Ralph Lauren ships it to the SoHo store vs the Madison Avenue store. Rather than ship a thousand t-shirts to New York blindly, the brand can understand consumer demand in precise locations and anticipate how many will actually sell (and where), allowing for more precise and agile delivery.

Fashion brands no longer have to worry about inventory wasting money. With greater product visibility and data through EVRYTHNG’s technology, brands can keep inventory in a distribution center and be smarter about diverting their products based on demand location.

The “see now, buy now” model is still very much in the experimentation phase, with brands working out what works best for them. But we know that consumer demand and technology will only advance. It’s safe to say that this is a trend that won’t be going away. And with better inventory management, “see now, buy now” can be a dream for fashion brands.

Frederik Armbrust is VP, Enterprise Solutions, Apparel and Footwear at EVRYTHNG.

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