With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic putting a stop to all non-essential travel, technology is now taking a front seat in communication between clothing brands and their suppliers, according to research firm GlobalData.
“Buyers are now having to rethink how they work with manufacturers on orders and product design,” says Michelle Russell, apparel correspondent for GlobalData.
UK clothing and homewares retailer Next is looking at a number of different scenarios to make up for the lack of face-to-face contact with its suppliers, including video conferencing.
Its teams would previously have traveled to factories to work on new product development, but are now asking manufacturers to send samples over. Video conferencing, with one sample at each end, is helping to recreate the process.
Software companies are also stepping in to help, particularly as more employees start working from home to try and stop the spread of the virus. Tukatech, for example, is offering its CAD customers the opportunity to switch to a cloud license at no charge, allowing them to work from anywhere. While Centric Software has launched a series of quick-start, online collaboration packages designed to get brands, retailers and manufacturers working remotely.
The dynamic of sourcing and machinery trade shows is also changing, with organisers looking at virtual and other digital alternatives as the pandemic forces the cancellation of myriad events around the world.
“Companies are now having to find new ways of staying in touch that they maybe haven’t considered previously,” says Russell. “So having the right technology in place to enable a company to keep communication flowing across its supply chain has now become imperative if they want to remain operational.
“Next says it will come out of the process with the ability to communicate with potentially more manufacturers than it was previously, and this may be the case for many retailers and brands. They will inevitably find more efficient and cost effective ways of working once this pandemic is over and normal business is resumed.”