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Editor’s Comment: Optimise operations to evolve with the customer

Keely Stocker

This week the inaugural Drapers Operations Forum took place in London. The one-day event was launched in response to market demand for more practical insight into the challenges faced in the operations side of any fashion business.

As retailers and brands face tough market conditions, efficiency of the back office gives businesses a competitive advantage. Flexible supply chains and streamlined operational strategies support a multichannel approach, as well as international expansion. 

We heard from high-level speakers including Hash Ladha, chief operating officer at Oasis and Warehouse, Richard Gilmore, chief operating officer at Jigsaw, and Paul Johnson-Barnett, head of global distribution at Barbour.

Each discussed how operational models have evolved and what retailers must do to ensure an efficient and seamless back-end operation. Delivery and the different options each retailer offers was a big talking point and it was interesting to discover that Barbour offered next-day delivery as far back as 1974 – albeit only to one very special customer: the Duke of Edinburgh.

Today, customers expect a variety of delivery options. Our speakers advised that businesses needs to ensure they understand their customers’ expectations of service. Depending on the retailer and customer base, priorities are often very different – while all retailers should strive to offer good service, in some instances customers are not looking for the most luxurious packaging and in others, not necessarily the quickest delivery. However, what every retailer should strive for is to deliver within promised timescales. There is a huge risk of alienating customers if deliveries are not made on time – each strategy must be built with a customer-first approach, and a balance between cost and efficiency.

Global expansion is at the forefront of many retailers’ future plans but will require back-end changes

The operations model becomes even more complicated when looking at it from an international perspective. Global expansion is at the forefront of many retailers’ future plans but will require back-end changes. Speakers highlighted the challenges of international growth, and stressed the importance of making the product and offer relevant to local markets. This includes adapting sizes and range, and having an awareness of the climate. Delegates were also warned to do their due diligence on any cross-border charges, and it was widely agreed that both central and local operations strategies are required.

One topic that was highlighted on several occasions – and one I have mentioned many times in this comment before – is having a clear idea of your brand DNA. As retailers continue to expand in both retail and wholesale, across stores and ecommerce on an international level, it is paramount for any successful brand to remain consistent across the entire landscape.

To see all of the coverage from Drapers Operations Forum go to


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