How Retailers can capitalise on Waistcoat Wednesday and not run out of stock

The 2018 world cup is over, and as Russia looks forward to utilising the stadiums and feel good factor to create a lasting legacy for their nation, fashion retailers and clothing manufacturers are also rubbing their hands together having benefited from a somewhat unusual legacy set by England Manager, Gareth Southgate and his “waistcoat.”

Southgate has created a new global fashion trend for wearing a waistcoat. Indeed, since the nation got behind England for their semi-final clash against Croatia on “waistcoat Wednesday’, the National press has been full of stories about retailers running out of stock of waistcoats.

Many Russian clothing retailers claimed to have run out of all sizes, whereas back in the UK, M&S, who is the official tailor to the England team, was reported by Twitter user Joshua Grills to have run out of all but XXXL and XXL sizes on their website.

Kevin Carrick is CEO of global retail software solutions provider, Data Clarity. His company helps fashion brands like Paul Smith tackle this challenge.

Commenting he said, “Whilst no-one could have predicted the rush on sales for waistcoats during a summer heatwave, the fact that the only sizes that did not run out are the extra-large ones is no surprise to me. It’s very common for retailers to be left with a glut of stock at the smaller or larger end of the size scale that will be destined for the end of season sale. This is costing the retailer dearly in massive discounts on unsold stock.”

He added, “This is because retailers don’t know enough about the size profile of their customer base and therefore place bulk orders for all sizes with manufacturers and allow a percentage into their margins for unsold stock.”

But what if retailers did have real time insights in to their merchandising and could marry up all the data they store on an individual customer from different platforms and databases into one 360-degree view of their purchasing behaviour?

“This would have a dramatic effect on production stocks, sales, personalized marketing and maybe even the death nell for the end of season sale,” claims Kevin. Despite the fact that retailers are gathering this information with every purchase their customer makes, the reason they still have to order sizes they end up not being able to sell is because retailers are still grappling with the challenges presented by omni-channel retailing.

Very few have yet cracked the nut of being able to integrate all their various back-end systems from across the company to provide a seamless customer experience and insight across all channels.

This is because customers have many different ways to interact with the business and warehouse management systems are not updating quick enough to meet demand.

They can visit a bricks and mortar store and interact or buy via a mobile app, e-commerce website, telephone customer service, chatbots and customers are increasingly channel-hopping during the sale cycle.

The difficulty for retailers is in accurate customer profiling. With data on a customer stored in disparate systems, maintaining up-to-date information on customers is not possible. Take the example of Sandra Jones. Sandra could sign up for a newsletter under Mrs. Sandra Jones, but have an old record loyalty scheme under her maiden name.

This video demonstrates the power of omni-channel retail.

In this example, most systems would now have two records for one person, but omni-channel systems, like ClarityOmnivue, are able to merge records and recognize variations of the same details.

Retailers can ensure a consistent and personalized experience by gathering and merging data from all these touch points to create a single view of the customer. With deep customer profiling, retailers can offer personalized marketing efforts with relevant and timely messages that appeal to the individual based on their size profile, style choices and colour palette.

This also means that production and design teams have accurate data on the best-selling products and sizes for each store and can forecast stock levels to reduce waste. Stock sizes and styles that are sent to stores match the profile of that store.

Omni-channel retailing is changing the way that customers and companies interact with each other. When the customer can interact with a company at any touch point they choose and get a personalised experience, the retailer benefits from improve customer loyalty and decreased production costs.

Waistcoats may be trending this week, but for retailers, omni-channel is the trend that is going to be most important for the years to come.

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