Fashion Teaches Product Managers About Speed To Market

by drjim on May 14, 2018

In the fashion industry, speed to market is what matters

In the fashion industry, speed to market is what matters
Image Credit:
GoToVan

If you had to, how quickly could you get a new product to market? One month, two months, 6 months, a year? For most product managers, we get our next product to market when we choose to get it there – our customers really don’t have too much say in the matter. However, over the in the fashion industry things are a bit different. Fashion industry product managers live and die by how quickly they can get their next product to market.

The Challenge Of Creating Fashion Products

As you might well imagine, the world of fashion changes very rapidly. Customers see something that they like and then they all decide that that product is the “must have” product for this season. This has forever caused problems for fashion product managers who struggle to change their product development definition that fast. They generally have to order the products that will be in their stores months in advance. This requires them to have a special form of being able to see the future. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t and how good you are at this can show up on your product manager resume.

One of the biggest challenges that most fashion stores are facing is that it simply takes a long time to get the products that they order into their stores. The firm will place an order for a garment that they think will be a big seller this fashion season and then they will have to wait. For the manufacturer to design the garment, create it, and then ship it to the store can take upwards of ten months.

Another challenge that many fashion firms are facing is that the process of shipping their products to their stores comes with a lot of risks. Goods are often sent from the manufacturer to a centralized warehouse from whence they are then distributed to individual stores. This boosts the chances that unsold goods may get stuck somewhere in the pipeline. If this were to happen, then stores would not have the goods that customers want to buy and by the time the goods made it to the store, fashion would have changed once again and there would be no market for the goods.

How Inditex Makes Products So Quickly

You would think that the world of fashion would always be playing catch up with their customer’s demands. However, for the Spanish firm Inditex this is not the case. Their product managers have solved the problem of creating fast fashion. This all starts with their store managers. These managers talk with their customers in order to find out what kind of fashions they are looking for. This information is then funneled back to headquarters.

At the firm’s headquarters, the input from the store managers is then given to a designer who spends five days creating the pattern for a new outfit. A second pattern maker, a seamstress, and cutters then work for 13 days to create 8,000 copies of the design. Over the next six days, the designs are processed by the firm and sent to the airport for shipping. Finally, the design shows up at the store ready to be sold. The total amount of time involved was 25 days. Compare this to the 10 months that it takes other retailers to get new fashions into their stores.

Another advantage that Inditex has is in how its fashions are made. The company makes 60% of its products either in Spain or in nearby countries. This use of closer suppliers (than Asia) allows them to speed their delivery time. The organization that they have set up allows them to quickly react to trends in fashion that show up. The reason that Inditex has been so successful is that the firm can offer short lead times. Often their stores will have designs that they can offer to their customers that the competition just doesn’t have.

What All Of This Means For You

For most product managers, the next version of our product will show up when we are good and ready to release it to the world. However, in the world of fashion this is not the case – customers know what they want and if you don’t have it, then they will not be shopping at your stores. The product managers at Spain’s Inditex understand their product manager job description and have solved the problem of quickly meeting their customer’s needs.

Inditex starts their process of delivering fast fashion by having their store managers collect information on what their customers are looking for. This information is then sent back to headquarters where it is turned into a new design. That design is then used to create copies of the fashion. This can be done quickly because most of Inditex’s suppliers are located in Spain or nearby countries. The fashions then get processed and placed on a plane to be shipped to stores. A new fashion design can be in a store in as little as 25 days.

The world of fashion is both demanding and fickle. Product managers who try to serve this market have to make sure that their stores have the right fashions in the stores at the right time. The product managers at Inditex have the ability to detect changes in the market and react quickly to them in order to make sure that they have the right designs before anyone else does. Fashion may be fickle, but the Inditex product managers seem to wear it well.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If the Inditex product managers guess wrong on a fashion trend, what do you think that they should do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you think about the game of golf, what do you think about? If you are like me, you probably picture Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball, those very pretty greens that everyone plays on, or maybe even a nice set of golf clubs. However, it turns out that the world of golf contains some major product battles that have nothing to do with any of these things. It turns out that to product managers, golf is really all about golf balls.

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