In total, the frequency of sentences related to digitalisation during 2021 was 113% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, from whom where data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.
When fashion and accessories companies publish annual and quarterly reports, environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Digitalisation 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 digitalisation 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 digitalisation at least once in filings during the past twelve months,. This was 91% compared to 95% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to digitalisation.
Of the ten biggest employers in the fashion industry, US apparel giant VF Corporation was the company that referred to digitalisation the most during 2021. GlobalData identified 225 digitalisation-related sentences in the Vans and Timberland owner's filings – 2.4% of all sentences.
French luxury fashion house Christian Dior mentioned digitalisation the second-most, with the issue referred to in 1.2% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high digitalisation mentions included other LVMH, Hanesbrands, and Hermes.
Across all fashion and accessories companies, the filing published in the fourth quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on digitalisation came from VF Corp. Of the document's 1,075 sentences, five (0.5%) referred to digitalisation.
The analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on digitalisation 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 digitalisation more regularly is not necessarily proof that it is utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into digitalisation have been successes or failures.
In the last quarter, fashion and accessories companies based in the United States were most likely to mention digitalisation with 2.09% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in Western Europe mentioned digitalisation in just 0.98% of sentences.
The EU Commission launched the co-creation of a transition pathway for the textiles ecosystem last week, of which apparel industry actors are encouraged to take an active part in the co-creation process through their commitments on digitalisation among others.