AAPN chain chat: Thought leaders opine on the future
Posted December 10, 2020
By Mike Todaro
Americas Apparel Producers Network (AAPN)
Our future? What does the chain think? We asked this of 38 members of our network, on a two-hour virtual “chat.” They spanned the entire textile/apparel supply chain.
We did not need an agenda beforehand because we know one another, from trust built over years of meetings and networking. The resulting transcript is amazing. Our “Future Forum” DID include survey questions with multiple-choice answers.
This short paper shares soundbites for your consideration. We know one thing that has been true for many decades leading into this pandemic – that, like when you throw a pass in football, three things can happen when you order inventory and two of them are bad – you can sell it; run out of stock; or mark it down. Inventory, therefore, remains the issue.
Speed remains the opportunity. One of our members, Barbara Zeins, president of Gerson & Gerson, observed, "We have gone from a market of millions to millions of markets of one." These “ones” want what THEY want, the story, the cause, the purpose and now!
So, if you are in this industry, take time to read and reflect on what 38 thought leaders from your industry had to say the first time we met. We can't wait for the next one.
I believe that almost all retailing has become wholesaling. I really, really think that's the core problem that we deal with.
I don't think the onus is on the supply chain to continue to be smarter and faster and quicker. I think it's really on the brands, and I'm not going to call the retailers anymore because every brand is a retailer, let's face it, let's do away with the term “retailer.”
You know, the lines are blurring – who's a retailer, who's a wholesaler and what is everybody's responsibilities in between? So we see the industry melding where you're getting designers plugged into factories like never before, factories plugged into consumers, indirectly and almost directly like never before.
A lot of the excess goods that you see in the market is the fact that people do not know how to forecast, it just takes too long to get goods. And once you get the goods, that's not what the consumer wants. And then you have to sell it at a penny and we're creating excess. So technology is going to play a huge, huge, huge role into how things are done because the digital technology allows you to really produce exactly what you need.
You read about Nike deciding to turn off eight or nine retailers in some period ahead. They are not wanting to wait for these retailers to come back and tell them what demand is. They want to understand that relationship and what that demand is organically because the retailers haven't been able to keep their finger on the pulse, they really don't know what's going most of the time, which is reflected in their current business model and performance.
Retailers themselves don't seem to be changing. That's my biggest concern today. We're going to work to be faster so the tech part of it between merchants and or design, and factories to me is the number one thing to work on.
We've been talking about how retailers don't necessarily want to give us the information we need to forecast for at least 20 years. Every year this is one of the main topics that we talk about, and they're just not going to do it. It's not going to happen, I'm over it. But the people who are successful right now, I think own the entire supply chain, they own their own customers, and they can decide where to gamble and where not to with time.
Retailer and brands are going have to be much more transparent. They expect their suppliers to be transparent, but they haven't been. And so that's a place where it has to start. And it's a tricky one. I'm not sure that the brands and the retailers are into it, except for the most creative.
It's not about shaving minutes off of production. It's about shaving months off of development. A Sam is a Sam. It's not changing. Gosh, if you can shave 10 seconds off, who cares, but if you can shave months off of the development cycle, then that's a huge win. That all comes from technology, 100%. So my forecast can still suck, but at least I didn't develop as much stuff as I thought I might buy.
We all have personal mental tech debt that we need to erase and think differently and even if we don't, let's not wait for the retailers. Let’s reinvent and then help lead the way. Change is in the air, and it's a wonderful time so erase all that tech debt and think new. I think it's an opportunity for rebirth for everybody. And so it's a good thing.