The fashion industry is certainly one of the sectors most closely linked to the changing seasons.
Using the international trade data it is possible to show this evidence, taking into consideration three highly seasonal representative products: women’s stockings of less than 60 denier fabric, women’s stockings of more than 60 deniers and women’s sandals and décolleté with high heels.
Historical series of the demand for typically seasonal products
These three series clearly reproduce the cyclical trend of the demand for the three products, identifying similar patterns that repeat from one year to the next, depending on the time period.
Although the fashion industry remains inextricably linked to the concept of seasonality, it has undergone great transformations over the last few years, in order to respond to an increasingly dynamic evolution of consumer preferences.
In fact, in recent years a new model of consumption has emerged, strongly linked to current trends and this has led to the success of the so-called phenomenon of Fast Fashion.
The expression “Fast Fashion”, coined in 1989 by the New York Times, refers to a new business model that allows new items to be introduced onto the market in a very short time, thanks to a close integration between design, production and distribution of the product. This allows a drastic reduction in the product time-to-market compared to the traditional business model, responding quickly to emerging market trends.
On the one hand, the phenomenon of Fast Fashion makes it possible to promptly satisfy the requests of the final buyers. Nonetheless, the need to respond to a constantly changing demand, based on the trends in vogue, has led to significant changes in the activity and storage times of large and small distributors of the fashion system, changing the traditional time frame of orders retail sellers.
In fact, if distributors previously used to anticipate orders in the immediately preceding period and store the entire collection of the season, today Fast Fashion allows retailers to store smaller quantities of product, but several times during the same collection, without having to anticipate the purchase of the entire collection in one shot.
The following graph shows clearly this trend for the three products analyzed above, reporting a summary indicator given by the ratio of the value of the deliveries of the product made during the sales season compared to the value of the early deliveries in the previous quarters.
Ratio of sales season compared to early off-season deliveries
The deliveries of hosiery products made during the sales season are gradually increasing, to the detriment of early off-season deliveries. The same phenomenon, although less marked, for the delivery of high-heeled sandals and décolleté.
The result is a direct measure of the evolution of the fashion industry towards “real-time” response to consumer purchasing preferences, providing for a high capacity for intra-seasonal re-sorting of distributors.
The most remarkable advantage of this dynamic is that of keeping the final consumer’s attention to the latest news; in fact, since the production cycles are shorter and respond promptly to current trends, they continually attract potential buyers within the “Fast” sectors.
The fuel of Fast Fashion: social networks and influencers
The reason for the dynamic change in consumption preferences of final buyers, and this continuous research of the latest trends, is the digital transformation, given the growing weight of social networks and e-commerce.
The greater amount of information made available have, in fact, transformed the end customer from a passive user to a real “fashion maker”. In fact, especially for the young, the social becomes a real showcase, from which to draw the fashion trends of the moment. The expression of the marriage between fast fashion and social networks is represented by the figures of the influencers, whose choices in the matter of fashion influence and manipulate much of the demand of young consumers.
Changes in competitive advantage
Fast Fashion throws, however, great doubts about the long-term sustainability of such a hurried supply chain. The business model Fast Fashion is based on, making low-priced collections available continuously, conceals significant costs in terms of environmental and social impact.
Fast Fashion, whose demand is strongly driven by social phenomena and by the influencers, has in fact led to a worsening of the competitive conditions of the more traditional fashion sector, favoring the novelty with respect to the quality of the products.
The desire to pursue short-term aesthetic factors therefore risks overcoming the awareness of costs, environmental and social above all, whose outsourcing could become a necessary condition for maintaining this model profitable.