Since the essence of fast fashion is the disposable nature of the goods as well

Since the essence of fast fashion is the disposable

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Since the essence of fast fashion is the disposable nature of the goods as well as innovative style, it presumes consumers will have the financial means and lifestyle to continue wardrobe replenishment. Nonetheless, the increased importance of con- sumption, the growing commodification of style, the emergence of mass markets, urbanization and increased population density continue to sate the appetite of retailer sales. Fast fashion is one component of this broader fashion industry — the system that connects upstream suppliers to downstream customers (Aspers & Godart, 2013). Because of the inherent uncertainty in the fashion industry, the success of fast fashion firms derives from their ability to translate highly differentiated items into commodities that, for a brief period of time, preserve an aura of distinctiveness and thus desirability. If, as Zukin (2005) argues, more fluid social mobility creates anxie- ties that result in consumers’ embrace of retail institutions that provide them with a sense of value and identity, then fast fashion firms are uniquely positioned to exploit
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260 IAN MALCOLM TAPLIN these tensions. In doing so, they have brought to attention the benefits of integrating customer strategic behaviour with enhanced operational logistics. Understanding and even shaping consumer habits, and creating a production and distribution system to satisfy these trends, underlies the success of fast fashion retail- ers such as Zara. The ability to offer speed, affordability and trendiness thus becomes a valuable source of competitive advantage, one that goes beyond mere supply chain rationalization. Zara (and also Japan’s Uniqlo) has become the de facto benchmark for this system by, as Cachon and Swinney (2011: 778) state, ‘combining localized production, information systems that allow inventory monitoring and replenishment, and expedited distribution methods’. However, flexible supply chains are a necessary but not always sufficient requirement to meet ever-changing consumer needs. This is why Zara’s managerial agility and awareness of changes, what Sull and Turconi (2008) refer to as ‘shared situational awareness’, is a tremendous resource capability. Its ability to use operational flexibility to provide more accurate short-term forecast- ing about what does and does not sell reduces forecasting errors (Tokatli, 2008), lowers inventory costs and mark-downs and yet continues to ‘saturate’ stores with new products (Dunn, 2007). Fast fashion retailers, such as H&M, with a cost-based but less fashion-forward focus have been able to take advantage of liberalized trade regimes to source produc- tion mainly in Asia. Their products are fashion-basic garments — sold as cheaply as possible, as opposed to Zara’s more fashion-sensitive and slightly more expensive goods. This is another version of the fast fashion model, one that is more of a con- tinuation of earlier buyer-driven chains where powerful retailers are able to demand not just low costs, but also quality and a more expedited production system to meet the demands of more price-sensitive and fashion-conscious consumers. However, it is
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