In this environment, delivering fashion-right collections on time and on budget is often becoming a logistical nightmare, prompting companies to seek technological solutions to bolster enterprise efficiencies and cut costs.
Consequently, the apparel and footwear industry is expected to invest billions in product development and sales-forecasting software in the coming years, according to industry observers.
One technology that everyone agrees will become a make-or-break investment is product lifecycle management (PLM) software, which helps manufacturers shorten product lifecycle times by at least half to boost efficiencies in the supply chain. Then there are merchandise management systems (MMS) and markdown optimisation solutions (MOS) to help retailers manage over-bloated inventories and minimise losses from stock-outs.
The PLM market, worth some US$50m, could grow up to 40% annually by 2014, according to software vendors who say large- and medium-sized apparel firms are rushing to implement the technology.
"PLM and other real-time sourcing and sales-forecasting solutions will be a key investment for companies in the next five years," predicts Sue Butler, senior manager at retail consultancy firm Kurt Salmon Associates (KSA). "These tools can help the industry deliver what they need to survive and stay ahead of the competition."