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Li & Fung’s six tips for speeding up the fashion supply chain

Marc Compagnon, executive director and group president at supplier and distributor Li & Fung, spoke at the Drapers Fashion Forum about the need for speed in the supply chain.

He described six key steps retailers need to take when taking their supply chain digital.

Adopt a simple approach

Compagnon said: ”We are looking at an interesting world, when disruption is happening and the changes are pretty incredible. But we look at it as a huge opportunity at the same time.

“Changes we’re facing include the online effect, omnichannel acceleration, changes in global economics, rising costs, and the growth of data.

“We’re trying to think in a more simplistic way. But it’s hard to be simple, and simplifying what you do is part of the challenge.”

Move from cost to speed optimisation

On the supply chain side, the emphasis has always been on cost.

But with so much change occurring in consumer behaviour, Compagnon says the new optimisation needs to be for speed: ”It leads to tremendous results if you do it properly.” 

“If you shorten the supply chain, you have more time to make decisions about what to buy. Better decisions mean you buy better, sell more at full price and make more money – it sounds simple, but it’s not easy to do. Complex organisations are not easy to change. We created three different supply-chain models to cope with the complexity of retail businesses.”

Consider 3D design

He added that the 3D design process can eliminate weeks and months of making samples: “In the footwear business, we started this six to seven years ago – we trained designers in Asia and across the world, and the changes have been dramatic.

“Uptake has been slow in the industry, but once you do [try it], you quickly understand the power of it.”

Get the data flow right

Compagnon says getting control of data is crucial: “We can take a category and examine what’s going on with it. We have analytics groups across the world helping customers to understand what’s going on.

“Customers might have goods in the pipeline, but the trends are starting to change. We can shift to new items if they are not yet cut or sewed, and replace what was going.”

Explore taking 3D to the shopper

There is also potential to take 3D design software into a more consumer-facing environment.

“In the [Li & Fung subsidiary] Peter Black showroom in New York, they can show customers the clothes both digitally and physically,” Compagnon says. “It improves the customer experience and it increases customer loyalty.”

Think digital, not analogue

“In enabling our customers to compete we need to do things differently. The challenges won’t go away – they’ll increase. We need to create new ways to bring product to life.

“We find brands spend huge amounts of money on the customer side but on the supply chain people are way behind. It’s still too much of an analogue world.”


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