After a strong holiday season, retailers waited to receive China's new spring fashion. As factories shut down the treadmills due to COVID-19, retailers struggled to manage delivery delays and understand the impact on early receipts back to school that should be passed on to manufacturers.
Then the virus spread to Europe, the USA and the world and everything changed.
During the pandemic, consumers stocked up on food, paper products and cleaning supplies, but items like clothing, accessories and shoes were aging in physical and online stores with a finite expiration date. Now, as retail around the world begins to reopen and suppliers and manufacturers return to business, there are considerable inventory challenges to be solved. The most important thing, for everyone involved, is to create solutions that maximize revenues, optimize inventory and protect the brand image.
The short-term implications:
Today, as stores reopen, retailers are reestablishing their campaigns, discounting old inventory and devising strategies to sell the summer collection. By the end of May, retailers had witnessed a significant decline in sales with the trend of a nearly 90% drop in women's clothing compared to last year.
To maximize profits, retailers should focus on:
- Understand the omni-channel features to drive sales. Retailers need to take new avenues to buy and fulfill store e-commerce orders to improve inventory productivity, convert customers and reduce liabilities / debt. Retailers must understand revenue, expenses, and return on investment in inventory as they determine what resources to support and the technology investments needed to compete.
- Balance the consumer's journey to maximize margins. By balancing promotions, liabilities and indirect marketing, brands can attract customers with news and offer great deals with responsibility. Creating an attractive online and in-store journey is critical at the moment to drive conversions and keep consumers engaged. Make the trip worthwhile for the customer!
- Development of localization strategies to maximize seasonal stories. Brands must manage geographic allocations and develop profitable strategies for managing excess. Take advantage of e-commerce data to understand the seasonality of the product by geography. Save markdowns for real liability instead of reducing inventory on the basics.
- Evaluation of strategies for excess stock. The excess stock can be packed and kept for use next year, moved to an outlet channel or sold to third parties. Management teams must understand the profitability and impact of the brand in each scenario. Moving excess products to another section is a profitable and productive way to use inventory. This protects brand pricing strategies and saves excessive discount dollars.
- Review of future stock in the fall, back to school and fall transition order. Planning teams must reshape sales and understand, at the style level, where incremental inventory is available. Retailers can take advantage of their surplus strategies to mitigate financial risks.
- Taking advantage of temporary or pop-up space. This not only helps brands overcome responsibility, but tests new markets for future opportunities.
- While the pandemic has created significant supply chain challenges and left retailers with inventory imbalances, it has also created an opportunity to launch new strategies across the supply chain. Don't let this moment of transformation pass you by!
- Collaborate with vendors and suppliers to improve margins. Brands must meet with vendors, factories and suppliers to review everything from communication, delivery times and speed to market. This is an opportunity to work collaboratively and cohesively across the supply chain and create competitive advantages. From the frequency and timing of fashion deliveries to the maintenance of basic safety stock in fabric and finished products, new solutions can be created in a multifunctional way.
- Maximize agnostic channel strategies to improve consumer engagement and conversion. During the pandemic, brands with agile omni-channel capabilities were able to spin and continue to drive sales. Retailers must be able to fulfill stores' online orders, support sidewalk collection, and have store products shipped to the customer's home. Today, consumers demand a perfect shopping experience and now is the time to offer a complete shopping experience.