22 July 2022
Ultrafast fashion is quicker and cheaper and is easily converting fast fashion’s weeks into days
Fast-fashion retailers, which once used to take pride in getting a new style ready for sale in just two or three weeks, are today finding the going tough. Expectedly so; after all, when an English e-tailer like Boohoo does the same in a matter of few days, it surely is bound to give headache to fast fashion superstars. It is now undoubtedly the era of ultrafast fashion!
Boohoo, Asos, Shein and Missguided are few of the ultrafast fashion retailers that have managed to carve a niche for themselves today owing to their shortest and leanest supply chain cycles which helps them to also quickly match inventory supply with changing demand and strictly control inventory to create a balance between undersupply and markdowns.
Ultrafast fashion is a new kind of fashion that shifts from the bricks-and-mortar retail stalwarts towards the fast and decentralised world of e-commerce.Today, the world is talking a lot more about ultrafast fashion as it easily converts fast fashion’s weeks into days and dozens of styles into thousands of styles. What’s, however, noteworthy is the pace at which this new concept has been wooing the youth lately.
After seeing its sales go up by 14 per cent for FY ’22, Boohoo now expects its full-year profits to be in line with market expectations of £ 125 million. Its revenue has seen an increase of 61 per cent compared to that in 2020. Boohoo adds some 100 items to its site each day and one can only see an increase in these numbers.
Similarly, Asos also believes its revenue for FY ’22 to be in the range of 10 to 15 per cent and an adjusted profit before tax to be in the range of £ 110 million to £ 140 million. Asos continues to remain focused on improving the flexibility and speed of the retail model and increase the pace of delivery of its global growth strategy.
Shein’s pervasiveness, especially on TikTok, has helped it attain a cult status today amongst the young women worldwide, besides succeeding in making the US its largest consumer market, amongst 200 plus countries. And the numbers say it! Its last year revenues have been no less than extraordinary with the e-tailer clocking around US $ 15.7 billion at a growth rate of 57 per cent.
With focus on local manufacturing, on-demand production, no excess inventory and shorter lead times (from a few days to a week), it isn’t surprising to see these ultrafast fashion firms translate their strategies to good numbers.
Unlike the fast fashion retailers, these new-age superfast retailers do not have a single store of their own. Being online-only channels has been instrumental in making these ultrafast fashion retailers stand out.They are present all over online with tempting and trendy offers. Also, the overhead costs are generally low.
British clothing e-tailer Asos comes up with over 4,500 offers each week – something unheard of few years back. Missguided too updates its site every week with thousands of new styles, and if at all one sees the emergence of any popular fashion trend, the retailer intends to make it available in less than a week. Shein is a step ahead as it releases around 1,000 styles everyday on its site.
These retailers study and analyse their target section closely and deliver only those dresses that are in demand at that time – and all this in just a week or 10 days. Their ability to understand the customer needs makes them the ultimate winner. In fact, some of the in-house designers closely follow the live stream of popular fashion shows/events and come up with designs virtually in real time. That’s superfast to say the least!
Artificial intelligence image recognition technologies act as these retailers’ support system to carefully understand social media and analyse fashion images. The technology then helps them collect information about particular components and attributes of these images, such as fabrics, prints and colours, and use machine learning algorithms to forecast future trends.
Advanced software encourages consumers to stay updated on their brand’s latest fashion trends. By employing influencers and placing targeted advertisements across social media, these retailers have been at the forefront in enhancing connectivity – not to mention the efforts being put in to build personalised shopping experiences through data collected via online and mobile apps.
They also work closely on a central platform, which helps them in getting a holistic overview of all orders placed by customers. That’s the only way a short-term production change is passed along quickly and accurately.
Chinese e-tailer Shein has been using technology efficiently by algorithmically feeding its customers daily through Instagram advertisements, YouTube and TikTok. It’s been strategically on the forefront by reaching its target shoppers on social media and offering a newness level that calls for studying and analysing customer data through advanced software to inform new designs in just three days.
Besides, manufacturing apparels in their own countries helps these retailers deliver products quickly and cheaply. Boohoo, which is based in Manchester (UK), manufactures nearly half of its apparels in the country. Similarly, most of Shein’s fabric and garment suppliers are based in Guangzhou, where several thousand manufacturers make clothes.
These fashion retailers have been able to tightly streamline their supply chains and move production closer to their key markets, making it easier for them to speed up their design and manufacturing process.
The innovative business model of ultrafast fashion however ‘sounds too good to be true’. With technology and short lead times taking the reins for ultrafast fashion, the result has been the creation of an unbalanced supply chain that lacks high quality fashion. It raises a key question in our minds - Is ultrafast fashion indeed a good blueprint for brands to carry or should they be wary?