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Make productivity your top business priority

As the fashion retail industry prepares for the Drapers Fashion Forum in October, some of the keynote speakers share their tactics for driving productivity and efficiency.

Ralph tucker  jd wiliams

Ralph Tucker Chief product and supply officer, N Brown Group

What are the key areas of focus and investment in product that help to increase overall business efficiency? 

We focus our investment in product on anything that helps drive a better customer experience. If we can simplify and improve our efficiency as well, that’s a bonus. A great example of this is using machine learning to deliver better promotions and stock availability, speeding up the process while making how we operate across our teams and brand fascias more consistent. 

What major changes has N Brown Group implemented to improve the customer experience? 

We are driven to deliver fashion that fits and flatters, so our primary focus is utilising technology to improve how our product fits. That could be the introduction of 3D design or the use of avatars in fit to reduce lead times and improve production consistency – which was inspired by what our customers ask us for.


Daniel Rubin Founder and executive chairman, Dune Group 

Why should productivity be a business focus in the fashion retail industry today? 

Retailers are subjected to rising costs, which are eroding profits. Therefore, it is essential to focus on running the business as efficiently and productively as possible.

At the same time, there are big structural changes in how customers are shopping: the surge in online [sales] and decline in footfall. The challenge is how to recalibrate the model so retailers operate their traditional store portfolio as efficiently as possible yet continue to invest in growing distribution channels such as online and international.

What key initiatives can fashion retailers implement to improve productivity?

Understanding changes in customer shopping habits is essential for improving productivity. This means having the data on customer visits so staffing can be closely aligned to this.

Increasingly, customers are visiting stores to collect or return online purchases. Training staff to manage these changes while simultaneously eliminating all non-added value tasks is essential.


Cora hilts

Cora Hilts Co-founder, ethical fashion etailer Rêve en Vert 

How has Rêve En Vert worked to improve efficiency and enhance the customer experience? 

We have recently made the decision to remove the word “sustainable” from our marketing. Instead, we are building a platform based on honest luxury that allows customers to search by their concerns, such as climate change, and filter companies and products based on those demands.

Why is a strong digital proposition important for improving efficiency and the customer experience? 

Google Analytics allows a stronger understanding of your customer. Constantly monitoring your customer base and having a clear idea of your customer is important because you can’t really market [with the same materials] to five different customers – you have to market to one to drive sales.

What does a fit-for-purpose supply chain need to look like today? 

Supply chains need to be more concerned with localised production. We need to bring production back to one place – the carbon footprint of a single T-shirt alone can be shocking. The industry needs to show the full story behind clothes to ensure its future is sustainable.


Arantxa gomez, retail director

Arantxa Gomez Retail director, Desigual 

What are the key ways sourcing can be made more productive and efficient? 

We work with a stock management system that allows us to work with stock at real time. The orders are managed globally, according to criteria such as availability, proximity, delivery dates and costs. This system makes Desigual’s supply chain more agile and efficient. For instance, if a garment is located in a German store and someone orders it from another store in the same country, there’s no need to ship it from the logistic centre, but the unique stock identifies the closest garment, which is sent to the required location.

We are also developing projects that contribute to a unique shopping experience. The “assisted shopping” in stores, for instance, allows the staff to know the customer’s shopping history and her or his preferences, [from on online database] so they can make suggestions. 


Ben dreyer

Ben Dreyer Operations director, Boden 

What have been the challenges of making the business more efficient?

The increasing complexity of the business, with multiple channels and multiple markets, makes it more challenging to be efficient. Also, the service bar is constantly going up as a result of the “Amazon effect”.

What are your expectations for sourcing and supply chain innovations in the future?

Big data – knowing what is where and when and how to optimise customer experience and balance cost.

What does productivity mean in retail today?

We are an online player (95% of sales) so handling the outbound and returns is where our focus is.


Esther verburg

Esther Verburg VP corporate responsibility, Tommy Hilfiger 

How has Tommy Hilfiger tackled improving sustainability?

We developed a strong step-by-step plan, setting clear commitments towards 2020 that leveraged and accounted for the entire organization. While we do not always know the exact path to our goals when starting out, we share a deep-rooted mindset, passion and determination to achieve them.

In what ways can sustainability help to future-proof businesses?

Sustainability is all about preparing for a future where we will have fewer virgin resources. This means building a resilient supply chain and operations to create a more circular system. We have a responsibility to future generations to ensure our impact on the environment decreases – and perhaps even becomes restorative. Today’s youth are aware of what is happening to our planet, and if a brand is going to stay relevant they have to help, support and inspire consumers to make sustainable change.

What impact has the rise of digital had on sustainability for fashion retailers?

Digital has opened a world of new opportunities, especially when it comes to cutting down waste in our value chain. Our revolutionary Digital Showroom has already digitialised the traditional physical showroom, and our efforts in 3D design will further reduce waste in our supply chain between design and the final product. 


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