Fashion’s New Rulebook: Key Highlights from the Omnilytics Fashion Business Summit
Fashion is going through a pivotal moment in its history.
For the first time in years, the events of the Covid-19 crisis have led the fashion industry into a complete transformation. Beyond just shifting consumer behaviour, social distancing has forced almost every element of the industry to change.
From the merchandising processes to digitising the supply chain, no retailer or brand can go back to operating the way they once were.
Our highly anticipated virtual live summit, “Fashion’s New Rulebook: Defining the Future from ASOS, M&S & more” addressed these exact concerns. The four-hour summit was hosted by Omnilytics’s Director of Retail, Matthew Lovett and joined by a panel of industry experts including,
- Sarah Johnson, former Head of Merchandising at ASOS and Founder of Flourish Retail
- Kendrick Wong, CEO of Omnilytics
- David Binns, former Head of Buying at Marks and Spencers
- Bob Neville, former Global Retail Creative Director & Head of Retail at New Balance
- Kshira Saagar, Group Director of Data Science and Analytics at Global Fashion Group (GFG)
- Abbey Samet, Global Forecasting Director of Macy’s
Throughout the nine sessions, our guests shared their expertise with 758 attendees across 24 countries on tackling the evolving retail landscape post-Covid and strategies for business survival in the new normal.
Breaking The Cycle
One of the biggest themes across the summit was breaking free from the seasonal cycle. A core underlying issue within the existing retail scene is the rigid schedule that fashion operates in.
As shared by Sarah Johnson, this problem started early in the merchandising process – the OTB calculation used by most brands and retailers already accounts for discounting spend to drive sell-through, which ultimately means overbuying and sacrificing profits to hit sales targets.
This combination of overbuying and missed seasonalities is the reason why products are marked down too early in their shelf life.
Kendrick Wong proposes to pivot to a demand-led supply chain. In his presentation, he explained how other manufacturing industries had adopted a more consumer-focused approach, allowing them to be more sustainable by only supplying the right amount of product to effectively meet demand.
“Amazon understood early on that young shoppers, in particular, tend to search by product, rather than seeking out specific brands. This means that if our customers are demanding a white linen dress, but we don’t supply that demand, we would never know the demand existed. To combat this, we have to look regularly at the market, not to compare ourselves, but to understand demand and supply opportunities,” Wong stated.
This topic was further emphasised in David Binn’s session on sustainable sourcing, “The challenge for all retailers and brands will be to break this cycle of [over]consumption and build profitable business models whilst selling less product”.
Binns explained how climate change and environmental problems are catalysts for changing shopping habits. He pointed out trans-seasonal product ranges will be fundamental in the buying decisions moving forward, “I think the new normal will not be about fashion trends necessarily, in the short term, but products that give longevity and continuity for the customer”.
Data for Retail Recovery
As lockdowns come to an end, regaining consumer confidence is the top of mind for all brands and retailers. Bob Neville, a store designer for mega-brands like Adidas and New Balance, weighed in on how data plays a crucial part in the process.
“Move from what you think to what you know. What you sell is important, but what you didn’t sell is even more important.”
Data will not only help to identify where your consumer is spending but also to measure and review the success of each channel, giving brands and retailers more confidence in adapting to the changes.
Kshira Saagar, Group Director of Data Science and Analytics at Global Fashion Group, also discussed how measuring data will provide better visibility and higher productivity in the current retail landscape.
“When it comes to tracking data there are…there are few things we know that we know, and some things we know that we do not know, but most importantly a lot of things we do not know that we do not know”, says Saagar.
He continued that the reason why brands and retailers are unable to respond as effectively as they should, despite having access to data, is because data is always an afterthought. The notion that “we don’t need so much data” and “not everything has to be tracked” is a limiting mindset.
When in reality, the right data you need to track is everything that can be tracked – ethically.
He also listed examples of how tracking data for different functions like marketing, sales, inventory management and even the post-purchase experience, can help to optimise every dollar spent or effort required for future retail activities.
Navigating Trends in a Seasonless Landscape
Another key topic of conservation moving into the next phase of retail is identifying trends in a seasonless landscape. Abbey Samet, who has spent many years as a fashion director and trend forecaster, highlights how trend development will change in the face of the pandemic.
As runway presentations and fashion weeks go digital, the way we communicate with customers will have to be adapted for a screen. While the lack of physical connection will come with some challenges, having all these resources go online also means more accessibility for brands and retailers to tap into the design and trend zeitgeist.
Access to this trend knowledge, layered with a data-driven analysis such as year-on-year growth or trend curves, helps to validate buying and merchandising decisions across retail functions.
Other key trends she touched upon were virtual-led trends, like above the waist dressing or “zoom-worthy” looks and styling around masks with hair accessories or jewellery.
Omnilytics’s Retail Director, Matthew Lovett also headed his own session about trend validation. During this session, he spoke about the importance of social media platforms in identifying trends among the 16-24 age consumer group and demonstrated how sell-out data helped to validate the on-going skort trend, inspired by Tik Tok.
“We will not return to normal, we have to embrace the change,” challenged Neville.
The changes and pivots that happened in the past few months were not solely caused by the pandemic but issues that have been long swept under the rug.
The current circumstances leave us no option but to embrace these changes. Our previous way of operating retail was not only unprofitable but incredibly damaging to the environment. The amount of wastage and ethical ramifications are inexcusable – and this period presents a chance for us to change that.
With the help of data-driven solutions, the retail industry will eventually rewire itself for recovery in a more sustainable way.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank those that joined us for the live summit!
We hope you uncovered actionable insights and solutions to implement in your businesses. To those who were unable to join us live, stay tuned for more in-depth recaps for each of the sessions!
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