If you have decided to finally transition from your brick and mortar store to fast fashion, then you are probably already aware of how difficult that process may be. It might be a real battle but do not worry, because we have prepared this article to help you adjust to your new business.
Brick and mortar (also known as B&M) is a type of business that refers to its physical presence, which means that there should be a building or any type of structure where that company would sell its merchandise. The most important aspect of brick and mortar is the face to face customer experience that has slowly started the fade during the last decade because of a huge demand of fast fashion that takes place online.
Brick and mortar is often used as a term to describe the transition from this “physical” business to the business that has an Internet-only presence. Some of these businesses operate as fully online shops only and do not have any physical place for customers. However, this does not mean that these online companies do not have non-public physical facilities that they use for the actual running of business.
Let’s now talk in more detail of how you should transition to fast fashion.
How Has the Fast Fashion Supply Chain Developed?
Fast fashion is a term that refers to fashion retailers that follow fashion trends and use over-consumption to keep their customers interested and intrigued. They usually use cheap prices and materials to compensate for this overproduction, and many of them rely on online shops to sell and ship their merchandise worldwide.
On the other hand, the brick and mortar shops have been in decline since the 2000s. We can compare it to video rental shops and Netflix – almost all of them went out of business when people realized that it is easier to instantly watch movies and TV shows instead of going to the near rental shop. The same happened to retail shops.
We simply can’t deny the fact that people prefer fashion on demand and online shopping more. They can choose the clothes they want from the coziness of their homes and with a few clicks have them ordered. After that they get them shipped to their door.
Therefore if you wish to abandon the B&M business and transform into a fast fashion business, then you will have to abandon the traditional two-season cycle of sales and focus on what is going on around instead of focusing on your own boutique style. You can of course opt to be a small online specific niche but that won’t be fast fashion.
Some of the most successful fast fashion companies are H&M, Zara, C&A, Bershka and many more. These companies have a short supply chain but they control their designs, production, and logistics directly. This is the so called vertical integration and it includes improved flexibility, improved oversight of risks and quality, and shorter turnarounds.
The emphasis of fast fashion is after all on speed which you have to use in order to find out your customers’ taste and then respond quickly by utilizing a fast manufacturing process. You have to do this if you want to capture the interest of the rapidly changing fashion.
The Place of Production Should Not Be Far Away
Asia is the biggest market for retailers who wish to exploit the speed and cheap manufacturing costs; however, this has started to change recently. Many companies have started to realize that keeping the production near home is actually a good choice. That is because when the physical distance between the raw materials and production facilities is short, the whole manufacturing process is faster and the quality is better.
Burberry, Saks, American Apparel, and Zara are just some of the brands that decided to localize their production. This is actually good news for Asian fashion retailers who had to compete with the big names. So if you want to speed up your supply chain, you do not have to do it far away, you can source and manufacture as close to your base as possible.
Supply Chain Agility is Important
We mentioned the two most important elements in maintaining the fast fashion supply chain, but the agility is also important when it comes to the last stage – customers placing their purchases and ordering them either in-store or online.
The agility we are talking about refers to the responsiveness to demand, not only to the quantity of orders, but also to what exactly consumers want to purchase.
In order to break the boring two-season cycle, fast fashion retailers such as Zara decided to introduce their own mini seasons and collection throughout the whole year. They also use the consumers’ feedback to turn it into demand data and analyze it. Some brands such as Topshop were unable to provide this on demand fashion, but they responded quickly catwalk trends in order to secure sales.
What to Consider When It Comes to Manufacturing?
We have already touched on three most important aspects of manufacturing that you should take into consideration: the ownership of facilities, the tight control of anything outsourced and the closeness of manufacturing activities that are close to the company’s base.
But here are some additional strategies to consider:
- Clothing designs should be as simple as possible in order to speed up manufacture.
- Automation should be used in the production process.
- There should always be a ready manufacturing capacity if there is a need for tweaking the garments.
- Production cycles should be short and manufacturing should be done in small batches because it promotes impulse buying and reduces price markdowns.
If you want to compete with real fast fashion leaders then you need to be ready to invest in both people and technology since the latter is closely related to quick responsiveness. The information systems should be capable of the most important tasks such as passing feedback and doing the whole work of shopping online.
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- Product lifecycle management (PLM)
- The use of radio frequency identification (RFID) can be used to control the evidence of responsible recycling and disposal, which is why some retailers are now using woven RFID tags. If you want to trace your goods, you have to use RFID.
Expand Through eCommerce
You need to establish and eCommerce operation if you want to expand either into new regional or global markets. Every fast fashion brand has this type of establishment because if your good cannot reach the customers worldwide, then you are limited and can’t be popular.
Find a regional carries that will take care of transportation and home deliveries that will keep costs down because global carries are more expensive. You can also opt to use outlets as collection points but you will have to partner with a non-competing retail chain for that.
- Use a bonded warehouse in a new market to cut the duty and taxes payments. Your inventory will be stored close to the market too.
- Open small retail stores or showrooms in existing buildings. It is cheaper to have smaller showrooms that would be used for customers who wish to place orders and sales associates who would help them than a fully operating retail shop.
- Partner with a fashion distributor in the target region to help you connect with customers.
- Outsource shipping.
Do Not Hate Returns
Consumers have the right to return clothes if they do not like them or simply regret buying them. As a future fast fashion retailer, you need to not only embrace this but also provide them with a fast and straightforward return. Unfortunately, be it a small traditional B&M shop or a fast fashion king, the process of return is not easy. You can outsource reverse logistics to specialist providers, or you can partner with an organization that would provide you with warehouses for returned goods.
Optimize Your eCommerce Store
Now that you have determined your target audience, what and how to sell, it is time to optimize your website where most of the shopping will be done. This is where you will focus on the aesthetics plus building proper SEO content.
Since you are closely related to fashion, that means that the design of your website will have to be decent. Choose the themes and template that will sell your products, not make the customers go away. Make it optimized for mobile phones and tablets and make sure to reduce the number of clicks on checkout in order to make it simpler and easier for the users. Because if they find it simple and easy, they will return for more. Additionally, arrange your products into categories and subcategories so the consumers can find what they need.
Take Cate of Product Descriptions
Content pays a large part on your website and you need to drive traffic by including brief and informative descriptions of your products. You need a SEO specialist and write everything on the website, including the promo banners and blog posts in order to make the people stay on the site.
Market Your eCommerce Website
You need a good marketing plan in order to get your business going. You can do your own digital marketing in the beginning, but since you want to be big then you might need to outsource it to a digital marketing agency.
- Improve the performance with Google Search Console (GCS)
- Use Google Analytics
- Minimize the website loading time
- Survey consumers
- Use social media, heavily
The Use of Bonded Warehouses
If you are going to expand your business into selling your merchandise in a multi-region place, then you might go for a bonded warehouse concept. Since you will be hiring import-export specialists, then storing your inventory close to the target market might reduce your costs a lot.
The local custom authorities will most likely control this but you will still be able to perform the basic activities of selling to foreign customers.
The Benefits of Having an Offline and Online Store
If you plan on having both a physical/offline and online businesses, then honestly, you will have the best of both worlds. However, if you will have to choose only one, then here are the pros vs. cons:
Brick and mortar benefits:
- Face to face interaction
- Customer service
- You are not open 24/7
Fast fashion online store:
- Global reach with your designs
- Bigger profits
What’s the Future of Fast Fashion?
Since you are already here because you want to get into fast fashion into the first place, let’s see what the future of it is. The customers are starting to care about ethical and environmental issues among other things. They do not want to buy clothes made of cheap materials and synthetics that will pollute the waters and environment.
On the other hand, some fast fashion retailers are trying to beat this by introducing their own systems of recycling, for example H&M. They allow their customers to get a 15% discount by bringing their old clothes that they will use to recycle and cut costs on materials.
That is a great and innovative project to do; however, it still does not answer the question of cheap vs. natural materials.
To sum up, we have talked about the transition from the physical brick and mortar business to fast fashion. We have mentioned the benefits of both and how the B&M has been in decline for the past 20 years. Fast fashion has been criticized for environmental pollution, cheap materials and human exploitation but some brands are changing that.
Expanding your small business into a full scale fast fashion chain won’t be easy and it is not supposed to be. You will have to take care of your online presence (if you have it) and change the typical production ways of small businesses.
Thanks for reading and if you have any additional questions, make sure to contact us.