Logistics expert and BluJay regional director Paul Soong details why retailers should go on the offensive with their supply chains. 

Fashion retailers have been a victim of 2020’s disruption to supply chain logistics.

Clothing demand dropped, with revenue for the clothing retailing industry in Australia declining by 8.5% from the previous anticipated increase of 0.4% in 2019-20.

Government restrictions extended into air and sea freight, and the fulfilment of online fashion and apparel orders was in doubt with a lack of incoming stock.

In addition to resrictions, fashion retailers experienced significant pressure, managing unpredictable fluctuations in demand, shifting consumer preferences, and growing demand for reverse logistics.

Fashion retailers rely on providing consumers real-time visibility over the delivery process to remain competitive.

As fashion is already a crowded market, more retailers are placing more importance on the delivery experience in consumer experience.

This challenge to maintain visibility with consumers is compounded by the fact, that countries where clothes can be sustainably sourced from, face border closures that limit the supply chain.

For consumers, the prospect of waiting for a delayed shipment is not an option.

In fact, consumers may even turn to discount stores, rental fashion labels and second-hand fashion to shop, as consumers consideration grows for their carbon footprint.

However, last year showed a level of unpredictability that exceeded expectations.

Stockpiling inventory is not an option for fashion retailers, where consumer preferences can change quickly according to overseas trends and void the value of the inventory.

Instead, supply chains need to go on the offensive.

Fostering supply chain resilience to persevere through disruptions is a must to weather busy periods like the hectic golden quarter where Australia Post delivered a record 52 million parcels.

To manage these surges and maintain consistency with consumer expectations, a focus on a consistent last-mile delivery experience is a must.

Last-mile delivery struggles with growing urban centres and in the pandemic, consumers expect transperancy with deliveries.

It is vital in connecting with consumers, which requires in part, trust that transport companies can provide better visibility to retailers that then can inform consumers.

A social media ‘I want it now’ mindset has intensified the consumer’s mentality.

They want to be notified when it’s most relevant and going to impact the timeline of the delivery through easily readable updates such as ‘the product will be delayed by a day’.

Potentially, delays like this will open the gateway for consumers to change their preferences mid-way through the delivery process.

Consumers could specifiy they want their product delivered to a different place, or change the date and time of the delivery, or even to who they want the product be delivered to, like a neighbour or workplace.

The best solutions enable high-quality customer service for retailers, giving customers the flexibility to choose when and where is convenient for them.

In 2021, choosing solutions that consistently deliver excellent last-mile delivery can retain and even expand the consumer base.

The Iconic is a prime example of this best practice as shoppers are notified exactly when items are coming, for example, next day in Melbourne if the item is purchased before 2pm.

Predicting and preparing ‘worst-case-scenario’ plans are not enough to futureproof supply chains.

Supply chains and retailers alike need to go beyond, go on the ‘offensive’ and develop resilience in these uncertain times.

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