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GUEST COMMENT Meeting the increased obsession with speed

When it comes to the world of ecommerce, speed is of the essence. It’s now the expectation that many items will arrive the next day and, in many cases, the same day.

And this expectation of getting what you want when you want it has spread throughout many industries, including the apparel and garment sectors. In a recent McKinsey survey, speed to market was identified as the top priority for most companies.

But it’s not just about getting online orders fulfilled quickly. Fashion retailers need to follow the catwalk trends and get the latest fashions into their stores and warehouses as quickly as possible. And the consequences of getting this wrong are high — being late to market can lead to lost sales, as can a lack of available inventory.

An implicit part of getting this right is the retagging process. However, a legacy approach to retagging, which may involve using external bureaus, necessitates sending pricing information back and forth between external suppliers and internal departments. Therefore, the printed tags can take weeks to arrive, and in the world of fast fashion, trends could have moved on by then.

So, what challenges do retailers face today before they get their fashion items to the customers and how can they be overcome?

The time to market challenge

Many large retailers operating on a worldwide basis can find moving merchandise between markets a challenge. The process of sending products back from the store to the distribution centre, replacing the price tag and sending them back out to new markets, can be lengthy. In fact, it can be up to six weeks with a legacy process such as waiting on a bureau to print and ship to the distribution centre.

This situation is clearly not compatible with fast fashion markets. In order to be competitive within this landscape, retailers must be able to get their products into the hands of their customers quicker than the competition. And if products are not moving in one store, they may need to be discounted or sent to another where the garment is selling well — all of which will require retagging.

Also, retagging is more important than ever due to the rising rate of returns. It’s common among some shoppers to purchase a number of items in various sizes and colours to try on at home, then return those items that they are not so keen on. In fact, 40% of retailers have seen a marked increase in intentional returns.

The fast-fashion challenges of speed to market and managing returns do pose some challenges, but, implementing a modern re-tagging process goes a long way towards addressing them. This is why many retailers are turning to the cloud.

Addressing the challenge

Modern label management systems allow retailers to centrally manage everything from tag design to price changes. It’s a scalable setup that enables retailers to print tags on-demand from any printer, and it can easily be extended to external suppliers. It allows easy deployment, with no burden on the IT department. Operators can print from any internet-connected computer, with minimal training and no IT assistance.

This clearly saves costs in terms of time and resources and gets the garments on to the shop floor, or in the warehouse, as quickly as possible. In addition, modern, agile solutions maintain a centralised document library, meaning that there are fewer versions of the same tags to maintain, leading to more consistent and accurate tags across the garment collection.

Selecting the right system

The benefits of improving a retagging process with a modern label management system could mean the difference between being competitive or not in such a rapidly moving marketplace as fast fashion. However, there are a few tips which retailers should use to make sure they get the most benefit from any implementation:

  • Retagging systems should integrate with existing business systems to reduce complexity
  • The system should be able to handle tag and label printing so it can cover all retail channels
  • It should have the ability to modernise processes by streamlining and automating workflows
  • It should be printer agnostic
  • A system that supports mobility, such as RF guns, allows the flexibility to print labels where they’re needed
  • The system should have inbuilt measures to eliminate label errors and improve quality assurance

A retagging process is business critical to retailers as the implications of inaccurate tags and long lead times can mean lost sales and excess inventories. This is especially important in the world of fast fashion where collections can change every few weeks or so.

And consumer expectations of immediate gratification look unlikely to change either. Having stock sitting in a distribution centre or storeroom, waiting four weeks to be retagged is not an option. Improving a retagging process with a modern label management system ensures that garments are labelled and available as quickly as possible, delivering increased sales and ROI for retailers.

Author: Ken Moir, vice president, marketing, NiceLabel.

Image credit: Fotolia

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