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In his keynote speech at the event titled ‘Selling to Today’s Empowered Consumer’, Alvanon president and global fashion business authority Ed Gribbin expressed concern over the industry’s slow reaction to the technology demands of “today’s empowered consumers”.
Gribbin stressed the need for breaking away from outdated processes and putting technology to work in ways that enhance product development, improve fit and accelerate speed to market.
“If you think about the product development processes that we employ today, they are very similar to the practices we have known for the past 50 or 60 years,” Gribbin said. “We tend to think that fashion is all about change, and yet we are one of the most change resistant industries in the world.”
“Consumers are far more empowered today than even two years ago,” he noted. “The retailer once owned us, the consumer. If you wanted a piece of apparel, you had to go to a store when that store was open, look at the selection of merchandise that some merchant decided you would want to buy and, if you found something you liked, hopefully they had it in your size.
“Technology has turned that around. Today, the consumer is the center of everything. Many of our business models are broken and some beyond repair.”
Gribbin added that there are “disrupters” today who are finding different and better ways to serve the customer, and that these new ways “have everybody shaking”. For example, by June of next year, Amazon will surpass Macy’s as the largest seller of clothing in the US, he said.
Gribbin cited risk taking, cultivating technology-savvy talent and innovation as essential dynamics necessary to prosper in today’s rapidly changing and increasingly tech-driven fashion marketplace.
“Ideas are the currency of the future of the fashion business,” he continued. “But we squash ideas. We shy away from taking risks. We are inhospitable to innovation. The disrupters are not afraid to take risks. They have a bias for action. We need to educate our people and seek out the right talent to use the technology out there or we will not be able to engage our customers on a regular basis.”
Gribbin noted that in recent years, fashion industry priorities have included cyber security and sustainability, and that speed to market currently occupies the top rung of industry leaders’ priority lists.
“Speed to market is a huge theme, but at the end of the day, they all have to do with growth and they all involve a certain amount of risk,” he says.
The event addressed a variety of hot button fashion business issues ranging from “how to stock winners and price perfectly” to “converting more online shoppers” and “growth strategies for new markets.”
It was attended by managers of leading brands, such as Lord & Taylor, JC Penny, Calvin Klein and Under Armour, and also featured panel guests from retail specialist Edited, information without programming supplier BeProduct and data provider Fit Analytics. (RKS)
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