Fashion Week is upon us, and, as models and fashion moguls around the world touch down to enjoy four weeks of new looks and trends across the world’s fashion capitals, fast fashion brands and manufacturers from across the globe will be eagerly anticipating the next big thing to recreate for their customers.
There’s no denying that the four major Fashion Weeks play an instrumental role in determining trends for the year, but there is also a less talked about impact: the waste and excess stock generated as retailers worldwide look to mass produce the latest – and short-lived – looks.
The trickle down effect of fashion week
In the world of fast fashion, sustainability has rarely been a top priority. Fashion trends are no longer seasonal, especially during the four major Fashion Weeks, where changes in fashion can happen weekly. This can lead to astronomical rates of returns – with the apparel industry, particularly fast fashion, experiencing the highest rate of returns at 30 percent and most of this is likely to end up in landfill.
Consumers really get into the spirit of buying as soon as the latest trends from the world Fashion Weeks hit the stores, with everyone wanting to get their hands on the latest ‘it’ thing. However, judging from the millions of packages flowing back to warehouses and stores in the weeks following fashion week, it seems it’s a case of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ when it comes to Fashion Week trends.
This is partly due to the fact that by the time items are returned, they’re too dated to go back on primary shelves due to the quick rotation of stock faced by fast fashion retailers.
Trends come and go, but what happens to the returns?
The return surge is a blessing for resale sites, which can see a huge spike in traffic as users attempt to earn some extra cash once the latest trend ends. However, most of the products will end up back with the retailers that originally sold them. Processing the wave of returns is a time consuming, expensive and laborious task that has only grown more complicated with the rise of online shopping and the changes in customer behaviour, where free and convenient returns are expected.
With fast fashion cycles being over so quickly, there is an urgent need for retailers to clear existing inventory to make room for the new. Given that consumers are becoming more conscious of sustainability and wary of retailers that are destroying goods or shipping them off to landfill, speciality apparel retailers are primary candidates to be big players in the ever-growing secondary market.
Technology is key for re-commerce strategy
When dealing with customer returns and excess inventory, retailers need to understand the true value of the products and the return processes that they have in place. In more cases than not, retailers rely on small groups of buyers who will negotiate the prices down, putting pressure on the already slim profit margins.
In most cases, there is an opportunity for retailers to recoup more by ditching the traditional methods and applying technology-based solutions to the process – allowing thousands of buyers to compete for the inventory, pushing up prices whilst cutting down the time involved in the process.
A private business-to-business (B2B) online auction marketplace platform, like those hosted and managed by B-Stock, can be configured, integrated and scaled to meet the exact needs of a business. By implementing this type of technology, retailers are tapping into an already robust secondary market, complete with an extensive buyer base of interested parties to drive up the highest possible prices.
It can also automate the sales process, deliver a faster sales cycle and generate exclusive market intelligence in the form of real market price data.
Applying next-generation technologies to the returns process will have a huge impact on the bottom line. With today’s return-happy customer behaviour, retailers need to reconsider the processes in place for the handling and remarketing of merchandise in order to maximize the profit margins available.
Ben Whitaker, B-Stock’s EMEA director