Fashion retailers should re-think their supply chains in response to rapidly changing and often unpredictable consumer behaviour, new research suggests.

The study, produced by the LHarrington Group for DHL, found that volatility and complexity are now the norm, rather than the exception, in the fashion sector. The changes being driven by the internet, mobile communications and growing consumer spending power.

And it adds that fragmented sales channels, escalated service demands, shortened product lifecycles, ratcheted up cost and margin pressures have all created production challenges.

Additional uncertainty comes from changing demographics, rapid growth in emerging markets, and the rise of the global middle class.

The report said fashion retailers and manufacturers must create and manage supply chains that are fit for purpose.

This means being able to serve markets around the world with a supply chain that is resilient enough to withstand shocks, agile enough to respond quickly to sudden or unexpected change, flexible enough to customise products and efficient enough to protect margins.