One of the most widely used terms today is ‘New Normal’; everyone in every industry is throwing the concept. Any webinar I hear or editorial I read is talking about how the world and businesses are going to change and the inference of ‘normal’ will be redefined!
While it makes sense in some aspects like how WFH (Work From Home) could be more acceptable and become the new normal way of running offices in coming days, or how online shopping for groceries will really pick up, and even after the lockdown, many homes may adopt it as the new normal way of shopping!
But how do we see the concept in the context of our industry, which is perhaps one of the most dynamic industries in terms of constant change. The consumer is always looking for something new, the retailers are constantly seeking new ways to attract the customer and the manufacturer is ever evolving to meet new norms to stay relevant.
So, what is or could be the ‘New Normal’ for the fashion value chain?
The three major concepts being projected for the future – speed to market, smaller quantities and flexible operations – are in reality nothing new for the industry. I have in my numerous editorials already talked about the importance of the three, but with a new updated inference – real-time response, on-demand manufacturing and agile supply chain.
The basic concept behind the three elements has already been on the goal sheet of progressive companies. And the enhanced dynamics of the three concepts make them more relevant for the future. The pandemic has put a final stamp of approval on these concepts that were earlier discussion points!
Many may question as to why these three elements are considered so essential for the fashion industry… Well for one, no retailer wants inventory, they have piles of them at their stores and warehouses. And moving forward, no retailer wants a repeat of what they are facing today.
If the supply chain is quick, agile and working on limited quantities, the chances of extra inventory is minimised. Changing fashion can be addressed quicker and opportunity buying can reap benefits. The manufacturers too do not have huge WIP and they can work with less manpower and more automation.
Of course, the biggest gainer is technology. The ‘New Normal’ cannot be achieved without the support of technology. Right from analysing trends, to sample making to buyer approvals, to manufacturing, to warehousing to customer acquisition – technology plays a critical role in each!
The second gainer will be collaborations. Individual players may not be able to pull off the ‘New Normal’ by themselves. It is going to be critical that the supply chain right from the fibre companies to the fashion retailer and every one in-between, starts dialogues on how to cut time and cost in the cycle. After all, liquidity concerns are going to plague the industry at least for another year.
For companies that are still in the traditional mode, the road forward is going to get tough. So, the faster we accept the impeding ‘New Normal’, the faster our recovery will be. Fashion cycles are going to get smaller, and quick responsive action is the only answer to remain relevant.
There are numerous buyers out there looking for an alternate to China, and if we don’t act now, the opportunity may never come again.
So, let’s embrace the ‘New Normal’ as our own and give the fashion buyers a reason to think India!