What's Disrupting Fashion Retail?2015 was a slow year for fashion retailers.

From cost-conscious consumers to poor innovation, everyone from industry councils to high-end brands are diving deep to gain insights in to what’s impacting the fashion industry.

Social Media Listening

While fashion designers traditionally looked towards a “muse” to inspire their creativity, today’s consumer generation is constantly providing insights online into what is trending and what their fashionista friends are looking for.

As a result, social media listening has become an essential component for fashion brands to stay in touch with designs that reflect the mood of today’s consumers, as the New York Fashion Week demonstrated with its real-time trend tracker.

Immediacy in Apparel

Unlike even a decade ago, consumers now access live-streamed fashion shows and actively follow designers online. As a result, these active buyers and trend-setters often want to be able to buy what they see immediately, and not have to wait for the usual market season cycle. Known as “real-time shoppability” this is a big concern for the industry, especially high end fashion retailers.

After a show, fashion houses often take 4 to 6 months to release new designs into the market. By the time a fashion house releases its designs to retail, the consumer perceives them to be out-dated.

Trendy & Here: Fast Fashion

Several fast fashion retailers like H&M , Forever 21 and Zara have evolved to recreate popular designs and quickly manufacture a steady stream of fashionable, yet low-priced apparel. These hit the stores months ahead of major high-end fashion houses, causing a rift between the original designer and the knock-offs or “inspired-by” designs, resulting in a lot of discussion across the fashion industry about design ownership, and intellectual copyright.

What is clear though, is that Fast Fashion is here to stay as it offers consumers a viable option for those who want to stay on top of trends without burning a hole in their pockets.

Analytics in Apparel

Being able to stay on top of changing trends seems an obvious need for fashion retailers. However their adoption to technology has been notoriously slow.

But in meeting the demand for immediate designs, retailers adopting a faster supply chain from product ideation through delivery are pushing the envelope. By using analytics in both merchandising and demand forecasting, fashion retailers like Charming Charlie are able to keep ahead of fashion and consumer trends, while optimizing merchandise or predicting potential out-of-stock situations.

For retailers like Target, which is frequently overstocked or understocked, retail specific predictive analytics can help make a significant difference to their bottom line.

Changing Channels

Consumers today look to social media, peer reviews, online price comparisons and the ability to buy with one-click from their phones. Burberry is a leader in recognising that their customers have completely altered the way they shop over the past few years.

One of the very first fashion brands to "live stream" its shows, Burberry has also taken on fast fashion copycats by offering customers (on some platforms) the ability to click and buy certain garments as soon as they see them on the catwalk.

Another fashion house to respond to this shift in media is UK brand TK Maxx, which launched its Spring/Summer campaign, exclusively on its Facebook channel.

Subscription Services Come Knocking

Subscription fashion services such as StitchFix and Le Tote are quietly gaining a large number of customers, by offering immediacy at an affordable cost.

Consumers get access to the latest fashions, and even are able to have an element of surprise in their shopping as they receive boxes of apparel in their sizes which they haven’t even ordered.

In other words, stores have come home.

Conclusion

In response to the declining state of fashion retail, the Council of Fashion Designs of America and The Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a study on the future of fashion week last year. 

While the CFDA report details several apparent reasons for the decline including in-season relevancy, markdowns, and changing consumer behaviour, it also suggests that there is no one right answer.

But what is clearly apparent is that the fashion retail industry is ready for change.