International Retailing and Technology

International Retail and Fashion has come of age. We can trace the evolution of the industry from early 1990s where in industrialisation and other concepts like JIT, ECR and new Supply chain models helped the growth as well as restructuring of procurement methods. Further development and availability of space and building materials enabled the large store formats to be implemented wherein customers began to shop rather than buy, thus providing them with an exhilarating experience while shopping. The next stage of globalisation of Retail has happened thanks to IT enabled technologies.

The latest trend in fashion retail has been to offer ‘Customised & Limited Edition’ fashion garments. Retailers have created a niche segment that caters to individual needs and can custom make garments to suit the customer, who is willing to pay a premium for the same. Levi’s has been the market leader to experiment with and offer customised jeans to its customers. With this introduction Levi’s have been successful in strengthening their brand image.

Technological advances in Imaging and Photography as well as communication technology including scanning, file transfers and use of CAD|CAM designing programs in production have enabled the Retailers to offer such customisation to its customers across the globe.

The customer can be located anywhere in any market; the retail store can accept the order and execute the same through its normal supply chain processes. For e.g. An order is received at a store in France.

The salesman notes the specifications, measurements and the customisation requirements with the help of digital photographs. The data along with the digital images is scanned and transferred to the design studio at the Supplier’s factory located in China over email.

The design studio is then able to feed the data into the CAD|CAM program for customisation during production. Every detailed requirement including the exact shade of the material, the number of pockets, no. Of zips etc can be specified to the last detail.

Production methodologies followed in the factories today enable small batches and customised garments to be produced without additional effort thanks to new techniques of dyeing, automated pattern cutting, sewing etc.

Retailers have been able to use the benefits of technology to their advantage and market the benefits effectively. Using smart card technology, the Retailer captures the individual customer’s specifications and stores the same in the database. Anytime in future the customer can walk into any store belonging to the particular retail brand and order a customised garment. The database throws up customer profile and preferences. Thanks to technology, the customer is made to feel important and special. Besides the response time and effectiveness of response is also enhanced thus reiterating the brand value in the minds of the Customer.

Retail companies not only use technology for individual customisation but to offer customised fashion garments in limited edition or lots making it exclusive. Further mass customisation helps the company reduce its inventory holding at the store level as well as provide enhanced customer satisfaction wherein the sales returns and other issues are avoided.

Retail supply chains are driven by technology. Adapting to usage of RFID and Wireless technologies have yielded huge benefits in terms of visibility and control of inventory as well as efficiency in Supply chain operations contributing to healthy bottom lines.

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