In the apparel and garment world of today, fashion needs to be fast. As trends appear on the catwalk and are then endorsed on social media channels such as Instagram, it becomes a race for retailers to translate these fashions into affordable and wearable items at mass scale.
Sales forecasting is crucial, as is getting the garments onto the shop floor before the next big trend hits the runway and they go out of fashion. Getting it wrong is not an option – retailers need to stay relevant at all times. It’s not enough to simply produce one winter and one summer collection if they want to appeal to the majority of the market.
And this is not the only shift in consumer expectations in recent years. Consumers also want to get their fashion fix quickly, be that picking up the latest pair of jeans in the right size in store as soon as their favorite celebrity is seen wearing them, or expecting same-day delivery for online orders.
Then there are the returns. It's not uncommon for consumers to purchase multiple items in several sizes and colors and then to return the majority of them. And discounting also needs to be managed quickly and efficiently. As new collections hit the market, retailers need to quickly discount any remaining stock from previous collections in order to minimize surplus and maximize sales.
Meeting the challenges
This obsession with speed has multiple implications for the retagging process. Increasing numbers of garment manufacturers are realizing that they need to adopt the same mentality to their retagging and labeling process as to their garment manufacturing.
The legacy approach to retagging, working with external tagging agents or bureaus and sending pricing information back-and-forth between external suppliers and internal departments, does nothing for speed and agility. In fact, in using this process, retailers can wait weeks for printed tags to arrive, which impacts their ability to react quickly in a market where consumer desires are constantly shifting.
In addition, the number of garment returns for online orders has risen exponentially. It’s not unheard of for fashion retailers to experience return rates in excess of 40% . But with these returns comes the need for retagging so the items can be sold again. And this needs to be done quickly or fashion trends will have moved on before they get back out onto the shop floor or back into stock.
What’s needed is a system that allows tags to be printed on-demand and a system that can be deployed across distribution centers, warehouses, stores and even external suppliers. Retailers who take charge of this process so that they aren’t dependent on external bureaus will benefit from moving returns more quickly through the supply chain.
Price agility is also essential in the fast fashion world. Pricing and tagging should be moved closer to the rack, so retailers have the flexibility to alter prices to respond to changing market conditions.
In a legacy tagging process, prices are set, and the information is forwarded to external tagging bureaus. Typically, three, four, even six weeks can go by before the printed tags arrive and are placed on garments. But, if retailers have the ability to change pricing in a matter of hours rather than weeks, then this can be the difference between selling garments at the optimal price – or having to offload them to off-price retailers.
To attain pricing agility, retailers need to be able to print tags on-demand. This means that the tagging system needs to be closer to the business and integrated with other critical business functions and systems. The system needs to be able to automate change and approval workflows, so adjustments in pricing can be implemented quickly and it needs to quality assure the labels before they are printed.
A modern retagging process
Improving a retagging process with a modern label management system can provide the agility to respond to changing market conditions and it can reduce the time needed to create and print new labels and tags into a matter of minutes. In addition, the quality of each and every label and tag can be assured as it can integrate with existing systems and it is printer agnostic.
The retagging process should be moved where it’s needed, in the distribution center rather than with bureaus, and only best-of-breed tagging systems that can integrate with existing workflows, systems and printers should be considered.
It doesn’t look like the pace of fashion will slow down anytime soon. But, installing a modern label management system allows retailers to keep pace and ensure that garments are available to their customers, at the right time, in the right place and at the right price.
Ken Moir is the VP of Marketing at NiceLabel.
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