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Fashion is a risky business, for both the customer and the retailer.  In order to minimize risks, many fashion retailers are turning towards trend forecasting and data management sources.  These services can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 annually.  Forecasting companies offer insights on fashion shows, data on current market offerings and trends, as well as research and consulting services.

Fashion companies use this data to plan their next collections and to capture design trends.  A forecaster in the U.K., Worth Global Style Network, says that every apparel company in the Fortune 500 uses its services.  Companies like Marks & Spencer have always used forecasters, but use them more frequently now because of the ease of technology.  Other retailers use forecasters to confirm and validate trends.

1574R-017785Forecasters tout themselves as adding value because they save their clients on travel expenses, freelancers, and time spent researching fashion trends on the Internet.  Kohl’s, for example, prefers using forecasters because “they take information and package it in a way that speaks the language of retailers and manufacturers.”

Retailers also use forecasters to gather information on who is selling what and what products are “flying off the shelves” or not meeting expectations.  Retailers like real-time data to help them manage inventory and also determine the best time to take markdowns to make room for new items.  Some databases also monitor the comments that people are making about products online.  This helps retailers respond quickly to those comments by either implementing a service recovery strategy or changing the production of the product.

Fashion moves quickly and retailers are finding that the only way to stay competitive is through real-time data.  After all, customers are demanding up-to-the-minute fashion updates.

Discussion Question:

How are fashion retailers using big data?


SOURCE: Kathy Gordon, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2012