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Are the days of forward ordering numbered?

Indian summers, snow in March and floods in June have resulted in more and more retailers choosing to buy in season. Are we seeing the beginning of the end for forward ordering?

Unpredictable weather and a less than buoyant market means that many stockists are going against the seasonal norm of biannual buying in favour of purchasing all year round.

With young fashion brands including Sugarhill Boutique, Poppy Lux and Goldie introducing January drops for the first time, it appears that brands are listening to the demand in the market.

The benefits of short order for independent retailers are obvious. No longer do stockists have to hedge their bets and bank on a particular style being popular. No longer do they have to take a risk that the sun will be shining in July and that winter woollies will be in demand in December. Fast fashion means stockists can react with speed to the needs of shoppers.

Of course weather isn’t the only factor to be considered when selecting short order, with more frequent drops costs are spread out across the season as bills are paid in smaller chunks for each batch on delivery. One indie I spoke to described short order as a “God-send” when managing the store’s budget in what is still a difficult, if improving market.

For brands there are also many upsides to the flexibility fast fashion offers as monthly, or in some cases weekly, drops ensure a higher sell through.

However, a lot more of the risk rests with the label itself as it must predict what will be the big sellers of the season and tailor production accordingly, without the guide of an order book a few months in advance.

As the industry tries to keep up with the increasing demand for transeasonal product from shoppers short order delivery is a viable option. But to over take the traditional forward order process, a seamless and reactive supply chain and and a deep understanding of your target customer is essentail.

Readers' comments (2)

  • The economy is forcing the hand of the suppliers; ushering them to compromise the processes of sales. It is dog eat dog amongst competitive brands, with SOR packages being banded around willy-nilly. Ive heard buyers chuffed to bits to have 'discovered' brands that offer entire forward orders on sale or return basis, however surely they must realise these brands have continental clearance outlets that the stock will wind up in. It seems a great way of a risk free buck, but doesn't give much hope for building quality home grown labels.
    Alternatively NOS lines are opted for, however all this results in is carbon copied, ultra-commercial collections with no independent store identity.
    Isn't the individualism of independent bought collections what attracts independent store shoppers?
    Call it a necessary evil or the art of buying, but forward ordering is integral to the independent.

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  • darren hoggett

    I wouldn't say the days of forward ordering are numbered, as they has to - and should be - a certain amount of commitment going forward from retailers. However, the days of unrealistic and unworkable minimum requirements from brands are slowly coming to end. Certainly the majority of brands we deal with are more flexible than they were a few years previously and many have benefitted from this, though there is always room for improvement.

    Darren Hoggett
    J&B Menswear Limited/Norwich

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