I firmly believe that waiting for things to improve is not the best way forward, of course making change happen is a revolution, so what can be best done is to use this time to prepare for a future beyond the pandemic, like some smart companies have done.
No doubt it is the time to relook at operations, with a focus on improving agility, being lean and saving cost. Besides streamlined processes, the use of digitising tools is very important to achieve these goals. Though investments are a constraint, but the queries to know more about various tools are clear indication of the changing landscape.
On the retailer side, the prime direction is towards finding solutions to ensure that inventory pile up which was the biggest challenge in 2020, does not happen again. This means that retailers are looking not only to buy nearer to the season, but also in lesser quantities and in some models, only on demand. The big direction today for all retailers – big and small, national and international – is to go omnichannel with online platforms supporting in-store footfalls.
All this means that it is critical to keep the communication lines between the supplier and the buyer open so that evolving needs are understood and addressed effectively. This is the time to retrospect, meet new partners, reassess supply chains, search new categories of the future and invest in tomorrow.
Staying connected has never been so important, as travelling and physical meetings are on hold and losing touch with ground realities is a real threat. Manufacturers need to constantly interact with buyers on various digital platforms to comprehend and respond to shifting market directions.
LinkedIn, virtual shows and dedicated Marketplaces are ways to connect with buyers, start dialogues and understand the new demands of consumers. Afterall, the changing preferences of the consumer are dictating evolving buying patterns whether it is the growing tilt towards online shopping, casual clothing or even sustainable products.
All these shifts have direct implication for the manufacturers. The most critical being smaller runs requiring not only readjustments in production systems, but also better and more controlled inventory management.
Just how much of resources like fabrics and accessories have to be stored to meet short deadlines need to be reassessed. Controlling costs in non-productive areas is a must. And while fresh investments even in digitisation, may be a concern, as funds are drying up, spending worthwhile time in interacting with buyers and henceforth preparing to meet their demands is a win-win situation.
Social media and Marketplaces not only give visibility to the product strengths of the manufacturers, but allow the buyer to evaluate suppliers on other critical parameters like mindset to change and preparedness for new challenges.
The retailers too have to widen their horizon, it is time to meet new suppliers, assess credibility, forge meaningful partnerships and explore new products that will sell in the market, not only today but in the post-pandemic period also. Fretting over what could have been done and how to get rid of piled up inventory is not a solution and certainly not the launching pad for growth.
For sure, short-term vision is not going to help the industry get back on its feet, but what will work is collaborative efforts in the supply chain through connections built today, for results tomorrow!