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Articles on designing your own custom merch, growing your brand, and managing manufacturing as a small business.

Why Sears (and Nine West) Failed

March 13, 2019

Why Sears (and Nine West) Failed

In today’s competitive environment, retail bankruptcy is becoming a common occurrence. Sears and Nine West are just two of the recent casualties in a changing industry landscape. While we cannot know what the future holds, we can say that there’s a trend toward retail bankruptcy for traditional retailers. Here are three reasons traditional retail is failing.

1. Traditional retail models aren’t nimble enough.

Traditional retail manufacturing is a way of the past. While it can work for certain kinds of companies and products, it makes little sense for the fast-paced nature of today’s fashion industry. When trends can literally change overnight based on a viral video and bloggers around the globe can share new trends within minutes, companies need a manufacturing process that works at lightning speed.

Traditional manufacturing is a key factor of retail bankruptcy because it has a supply chain that doesn’t work for today’s economy. During WWII, it made sense to make thousands of the same article of clothing in a few standard sizes. Today, consumers are more interested in standing out than keeping up with the Joneses, which means trends are less homogeneous and less predictable.

On-demand manufacturing offers an alternative: quick turnaround times, no minimum order requirements, and more production transparency. Let’s break all that down:

Quick Turnaround Times – Traditional manufacturing lead times are famously long, meaning it could take anywhere from six months to a year for new products to actually hit the racks. To prevent stocking out and having to wait so long to re-stock, retailers have traditionally over-ordered. This leads to overstocking and markdowns, and a higher risk of damage or theft of all that excess product – not to mention increased waste. With quicker turnaround times, you can order in smaller batches, allowing much faster response to market trends and ensuring what you order actually gets sold.

No Minimum Order Requirements – Because you can order as much or as little product as you need, you have much greater control over your inventory. You can break into the retail business with fewer upfront resources and order only what you need.

Higher Transparency – Manufacturing today takes much better advantage of technology, such as The/Studio’s cloud-based platform that allows you to connect with your design team and manufacturers with the click of a mouse. This connectivity gives you much greater control over the entire production process, keeping you in the loop from end to end.

There’s also fast (and free) shipping that adds a little icing on the cake!

2. The consumer experience is more important than ever.

Today’s consumer is interested not just in quality and affordability, but in the entire buying experience. From shopping to unpackaging, customers want their values reflected back to them at every turn. They also want that shopping experience to meet them where they are and to offer a human level of customer support. This means a fluid, multi-channel browsing experience that takes into account how people shop today (including mobile and voice searching).

3. Consumers are concerned about waste.

One factor contributing to retail bankruptcy is the make-use-discard model of traditional consumerism. But today’s consumer has grown smarter. They don’t want a product that they’re going to wear once and then throw it out. They’re looking for a high-quality product that they can wear for years to come. They want an accessory that speaks to who they are as a person, not just a single trend they were into at one moment.

What does that really mean? It means consumers want high-quality goods, and they don’t want them to create a bunch of waste before, during, or after their purchase. On-demand manufacturing is the opposite of fast fashion; it promotes an economy where consumers can love something and keep it for a lifetime.

Learn More About On-Demand Manufacturing

If you want to ensure your business is tenable, consider going against the traditional manufacturing model to avoid retail bankruptcy. Instead of long turnaround times for single-product manufacturing, long shipping times from multiple manufacturers, and high minimum order requirements, on-demand manufacturing offers short turnaround times and the ability to respond to market trends quickly and sustainably.

To learn more about the benefits of on-demand manufacturers like The/Studio, check out our blog, What’s On-Demand Manufacturing?