Fashion waste targeted through better supply chain management

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Surplus stock in the fashion industry being binned or destroyed could be avoided through better supply chain management, according to retail technology expert Torex.

Helen Slaven, vice president of retail at Torex, has outlined a number of steps retailers can take to cut down on clothes waste in the supply chain, a move which she says would help retailers conserve resources and improve the bottom-line, while avoiding negative publicity.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the fast fashion clothing sector now accounts for a fifth of the UK retail market having doubled over the past eight to ten years.

As such, retailers are faced with the challenge of keeping pace with changing demands in a competitive and crowded market.

Slaven suggests there is keen interest among fashion retailers to implement an effective and accurate supply chain model to cater for the pace of the market, and Torex is working with a number of companies to illustrate the benefits of accurately predicting sales to reduce overstocking.

She said: “Some of the fashion retailers we speak to about this issue are still relying on legacy spreadsheet-based solutions for stock planning and distribution requirements. This model has limited capacity to cater for the flexible needs of local markets and fast-changing fashion trends.

“Automated merchandise planning systems serve fashion businesses far more effectively, going beyond the traditional methods of allocating stock by store size. Added to this, spreadsheet-based systems work on the basis of having a set cut-off point between the ordering of one season’s items and those for the next.

“Sophisticated planning tools take into account a range of variables, including the needs of the local market, store type and other factors such as planned promotions. They also have the flexibility to allow buyers to ‘blend’ items from more than one seasonal range, depending on the local climate and market.”

Using a unified stock ordering platform will provide planners with access to clear and up-to-date information about ordering trends, allowing suppliers to ensure global stock levels are able to match demand.

Slaven suggests that the most savvy retailers are not only taking steps to improve the accuracy of their supply ordering process, but are also turning green activities into brand-strengthening opportunities.

However, she warns that while merchandise planning and allocation have a key role to play in helping retailers cut down on unnecessary stock production, “their usage must be accompanied by a robust and ethical overall approach to retailing, beyond lip service to the issue”.

“If effective backend technology and processes are combined with other strategic measures, such as the use of factory outlets and charitable donation schemes, then we should see dramatic reductions in the quantities of clothes thrown away by retailers.”

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