Who is the most important person in the fashion industry?
There can be a long debate on this one single line because a garment goes through scores of processes before getting itself in a store. Each process is as important as the next one and so is the person responsible for it. But for argument's sake, if we need to pin down one person who we can say is slightly more important than the others or whose decision can be the resulting factor for a successful completion of an order or converting it to a disaster.
I would say a merchandiser because he is the link between your manufacturers and the buyer, the one person whose is involved right from the start where the style was a mere sketch on the paper till it is packed and shipped and sometimes even after that as well.
I can also back my opinion by saying that the other department which is involved in this process, nowadays have help from the technology and the new concepts which help them with there working, which is not the case with a merchandiser, He/she must rely on their intelligence, their experience, their historical data to plan their way as well as find a way if they face a problem.
The performance of a merchant is derived based on how efficiently he plans the styles. Right from finding the right cost and right supplier. So, it can be fair to assume that the difference between a successful order and a disastrous one is an efficient, focused Merchandiser.
But if I have to say that in a near future merchant will not have enough time to consider every detail of the order they are doing.
Let’s see some reasons which will prove my theory before we indulge further
1.) Increasing Styles: A recent study has shown that no. of style has grown at the rate of 17.9% CAGR in the past 3-4 years without a significant increase in the total order quantity. In 3 years, merchants will plan twice the styles they plan today.
2.) Shorter Lead Times: With turnaround times of 2 weeks, every week qualifies as a new season for some brands, merchants are pressed for time more than ever.
3.) Lack of Benchmarks: Merchants do not have any means by which they can scientifically put targets on fabric, CM, trims costs etc to push their vendors, they basically work on what they receive as a quote from their vendors.
4.) Lack of Technology Aid: Merchants today have to maintain records for every style with all its details to be used in future. This is done to ensure they can use this reference in the future. However, they again must do it manually which also consumes time.
5.) Communication: The biggest challenge that takes a merchants time today is the scores of emails which is received on daily basis and each one of them must be viewed and replied appropriately.
And all this will only get worse in the future because the way this industry is going each merchant will be dealing with twice the no. of styles they are dealing currently.
This will have a direct impact on the bottom line of the company as they will have to employ more personnel or have sub-optimal cost for each style. In both the cases, losing more and more money in times when the profits are already shrinking.
So, what needs to be done to counter this situation of fast fashion? How can we solve all the mentioned problems?
This industry is in a dire need of a technology which can help to reduce the unnecessary work from the merchant’s life so that he/can be focused on important issues.
An Insightful System – Currently available technology for merchandisers are mere data repositories. The need of the hour is a solution which is intelligent enough to identify meaningful information from the pile of data.
Cloud Accessible Storage - A solution which can store all the historical information and makes it very simple to access that information when its necessary.
If the industry can find such solution, it will not only reduce the workload of a merchant and help in focusing but also it will provide power to the merchants to drive the negotiation on their terms.
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Ishanraj is a Fashion Technology graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kannur. He has more than 7 years of experience in Apparel Merchandising, Sourcing, Product Development, Process Re-engineering and Consulting
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