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Embracing the ‘new normal’ for apparel sector

The COVID-19 has created a paradigm shift in the dynamics of apparel and retail across the globe. From restructuring workforces to mainstreaming work from home policies, the pandemic has redefined day-to-day business operations. Regarding the apparel sector, this new-normal indicates that the apparel supply chains starting from the yarn to logistics stage need time-bound amendments to prepare for the post-pandemic future.

Figure 1: A digital future lies ahead since digital technologies can redefine existing business models.

So, by being an early bird for adopting decisive measures and tailored-preparedness, manufacturers can accelerate their business transformation to mitigate the bottlenecks of COVID-19.

After all, nobody knows how long the disruptions spearheaded by the pandemic will last or on which path the recovery will lead us. Given these, apparel exporters who have been in the business for ages found it challenging to adjust to these new norms while sustaining in business.

A digital future lies ahead to win over this new-normal since digital technologies can redefine existing business models. Evidently, in the time of pandemics, businesses all over the world are found to get acquainted with a new digital reality.

For instance, it is widely accepted that the boom of Chinese e-commerce directly affected the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003. That was their new normal back then. And since then, China’s annual economic output saw an eightfold increase, to nearly US$14 trillion from US$1.7 trillion according to the World Bank.

So, it is more than sure that businesses that innovate will survive, but those living with the past will not.

Figure 2: Fetching consumer intelligence through analyzing AI and data which allow manufacturers to produce accordingly and then supply the products as per the consumer demands.

Engage with and adapt to consumers’ mindsets through digital means is critical. Because digital technologies must reflect and embody a consumer’s personality, be that for fashion, interiors, décor, or accessories.

This personification through digital means builds a brand’s virtual loyalty. In this complex journey, social media acts as a powerful tool for brands, but it is also a powerful tool for fetching consumer intelligence through analyzing AI and data which allow manufacturers to produce accordingly and then supply the products as per the consumer demands.

In this unprecedented time, innovation is the key to survival and success. Because we now need to share updated information, understand our consumers more than ever, and meet their unique needs to thrive.

As we see within the days of lockdowns, the Zoom culture emerged to facilitate communication and PR while Microsoft Teams connects huge organizations across the globe, and finally, we realize that we don’t have to be in the same room to do business deals. It can be done both on- and offline.

But to address customer experience, businesses must make their online identities as much as meaningful and appealing. Hence, our messaging needs to change, and along with that our corporate body language must get adapted to this tough time. In a nutshell, we all must work harder to reach the customer base more and more efficiently through both physical and digital means.

However, where there is a will there is always a way is perfect phrase to combat these tough times. It is high time we seek out the opportunities from the current trend and resolve the challenges. Here are the new trends in the apparel industry that we should be aware of. These will help prepare our business for the new normal during and after this pandemic.

Go digital: Big manufacturers of Bangladesh can invest in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like big data. Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis, which can help bridge the gap caused by the pandemic’s impact on the workforce.

Figure 3: With the threats of COVID-19 still around, the need for bacterial and viral protection has become more vital than ever.

Additionally, centralized communication tools (e.g., Frontier platform[1] makes it easier for your team to communicate) will most likely be one of the new trends in the apparel sector, as well as in other sectors that need a modern and easy-going platform for online meetings.

‘Quick Delivery’ strategy: A ‘quick delivery’ strategy can always help manufacturers overcome the current challenges for instance; price disputes can be resolved and they can become a preferred supplier to brands.

Using tools like Single Source of Truth[2] (SSoT) concept can be useful for a vendor who can ask for an extension of deadline due to unanticipated operational delays at the factory level. If this transaction is reported in the system in a digitalized manner where the vendor requests for an extension of a certain number of days, the system keeps this record for future purposes and the same can be tracked later if the request was granted or not.

Once all the transactions are digitalized, the next step for the companies is to start analyzing the data. The data tells the number of times a vendor was able to achieve the right first time in sample making. Because of this analysis, the brands can always choose to skip a few steps while deciding on lead time.

Change of mindset: Cost-efficient product designs, aligning the supply chain to new-normal, open-mindedness to accept new products, investing in sustainable fabrics including compliances will help Bangladeshi stakeholders to increase the country’s competence as a sourcing hub.

Coming to pandemic-induced supply chain dynamics, businesses can reduce costs by ordering only the materials they need from the nearest suppliers available adjacent to their respective locations. The increased exposure to more garment manufacturers near their areas gives them more cost-effective options with faster shipping routes.

Revisit fabrics: With the threats of COVID-19 still around, the need for bacterial and viral protection has become more vital than ever. For instance, Scientists in Switzerland have come up with an antiviral and antibacterial chemical compound that can be mixed with the fabric during the final process of textile manufacturing.

The use of solutions like this that add an extra layer of protection to garments will most likely become one of the new trends in the textile industry. Given this, we must consider exploring the rationale for integrating these kinds of materials into our garment manufacturing process as this will be one of the new trends in the post-pandemic years.

The trends discussed above are just a few instances centered only on the apparel sector. There are myriads of pandemic-tolerant good practices happening across sectors. To remain competitive in this unprecedented time, there is no other alternative to pursue innovative ideas.

Because our world is waiting for a cure and industry players are responsible for preparing for the new norm. Therefore, we should remain vigilant for the imminent changes in the apparel industry and make sure our brand stays relevant in the competition ladder.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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