A multichannel approach to fashion retail

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Fashion retail supply chains are generally acknowledged to be some of the most complex and demanding in the retail sector.The fickle nature of the fashion industry combined with the lead time from design to manufacture and the impact of Far East sourcing all present their own challenges.  In addition fashion retailers have to deal with the complexities brought about by changes in consumer behaviour due to ever increasing multichannel shopping options. This volatile market raises numerous issues.Retailers need to work hard in order to guarantee stock is available via all channels to ensure they are not missing out on sales in one channel while another is over stocked. The same principle applies to marking down stock in one channel which could have been sold at full price in another.Modern Retail Storage SolutionsSome retailers are rising to the challenge and reaping the benefits.  Aurora Fashions, the parent company of fashion brands Oasis, Coast and Warehouse, introduced its decentralised stock management system, “Anywhere Everywhere”, in late 2011. Since then product availability has increased by 28% and sales by £2.5m during a six week trial in selected stores.  The concept is simple – if product stock is available anywhere in the UK it will be moved to wherever there is demand.The concept of holding central stock may not be completely redundant as of yet, but it could well be in the not too distant future.   Retailers are currently moving away from holding large amounts of inventory in an effort to release capital. Consolidating multi-channel stocks into a single pool is a logical solution, however, this does not imply that the stock needs to be held in one place.“Holding Shops”Holding points are no longer just warehouses and distribution centres, retail stores are now also part of the equation. Implementing and taking advantage of this system is not easy and requires excellent stock visibility and sophisticated IT systems. However, companies such as Aurora Fashions show that not only is it possible but it can play a key role in driving bottom line growth.

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