In total, the frequency of sentences related to big data during 2021 was 96% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When fashion and accessories companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports, and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Big data is one of these topics.

Companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether big data is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of fashion and accessories companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies that have mentioned big data at least once in filings during the past twelve months, this was 74% compared to 20% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to big data.

Of the ten biggest employers in the fashion industry, Hanesbrands was the company that referred to big data the most during 2021. GlobalData identified eight big data-related sentences in the US-based company's filings, 0.12% of all sentences. Yue Yuen mentioned big data the second-most, with the issue referred to in 0.08% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high big data mentions included Christian Dior, Hermes, and Pou Chen.

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The analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on big data and how important the issue is considered within the fashion industry, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning big data more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into big data have been successes or failures.

GlobalData also categorises big data mentions by a series of subthemes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly referred to topic in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 'data analytics', which made up 100% of all big data subtheme mentions by fashion and accessories companies.

The proportion of apparel supply chain companies hiring for big data-related positions dropped in April compared with the equivalent month last year, with 75% of the companies included in GlobalData analysis recruiting for at least one such position.