Pulling products through the commodity chain and shipping goods more frequently

Pulling products through the commodity chain and

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Pulling products through the commodity chain and shipping goods more frequently
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248 IAN MALCOLM TAPLIN and closer to selling schedules, enabled retailers to be the major beneficiaries as it lowered their inventory costs and reduced ‘close-outs’ (discounted goods). Recognizing the benefits of such systems for expedited production, several retailers pioneered further changes that would enable them to sell inexpensive, fashionable clothes mainly to young consumers in a global marketplace. Firms such as Inditex (Zara), Topshop, H&M, Uniqlo and Forever 21 built their brands by targeting young people who were fashion conscious but income scarce. The fast fashion business model associated with such retailers involved stocking inexpensive fashion forward items in limited quantities that would encourage frequent store visits and purchases. However, it is their enhanced understanding of the demand side of the clothing chain that sets these firms apart. They are fashion-orientated, spotting trends and copying new designs from fashion shows, and then quickly producing for their own retail outlets (Reinach, 2005). They gain both cost savings from rationalizing the manufac- turing and distribution system and requisite levels of flexibility that meet their prod- uct variability needs. As such, they have further restructured commodity chains by simultaneously integrating and disaggregating production channels in ways that max- imize cost-minimization, requisite quality and flexibility. But equally importantly, their success has been predicated upon a more thorough understanding of consumer markets and an ability to offer inexpensive, value-added items to a market segment that prioritizes style, quality and relatively low cost. In this article I summarize changes in apparel GCCs, paying particular attention to ways in which the system has been transformed in accordance with technological in- novations, marketing and sales changes, reconfigured networks, and finally changing trade regimes and the role played by emerging economies as suppliers of low-cost labour. While the rationalization of supply chains and distribution logistics have been well-documented (Dicken, 2007), such discussions often ignored demand-driven aspects associated with altered patterns of consumer behaviour and how these are inextricably tied to changes in GCCs. Demographic and socio-economic changes have led to greater ‘fashion’ differentiation and altered consumer behaviour (Aspers, 2012; Kawamura, 2005). A desire for greater individual expression and the financial ability to create a fashioned identity have been features of the post-1960s consumer revolu- tion; a trend that certain ‘fast fashion’ retailers capitalized upon to further stimulate this demand. Increased discretionary spending and a more pervasive fashioned iden- tity have brought more volatility and style changes to an industry already known for its unpredictability. Fast fashion retailers have succeeded through the provision
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