SUCCESS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY
The fashion industry plays a critical role in the business world. It is acknowledged that the sector has gone and continues to undergo changes as time passes. In particular, the levels of competition keep on changing, it is an aspect that forces industry layers to pay attention to success factors. The current paper focuses on the success factors within the industry. From the introduction, it emerges that the industry has faced changes based on customer preferences and other industry dynamics such as dynamism. On the other hand, the literature review highlights that research into the topic has paid significant attention to the factors that influence success. In order to develop a better understanding of the topic, the study proposes conducting a research using the purposive sampling approach.
The word fashion is an elusive term that is difficult to define. As a concept, the term has many implications which permit people to interpret it based on their tastes. Nevertheless, fashion is taken as innovativeness in business and reflects people as well as their environment. The first stage in the development of the fashion industry took place in the 1900s (Easey 2009). At the time, the industry rode on technical knowledge. With time, sophistication set in the industry embraced superior production techniques that led to the processing of big volumes of fashion products. During the 1900s, the focus was on meeting customer needs of an increasing population. After the production witnessed success, distribution phase took over as manufacturers focused on delivering their products to various parts of the world. During the early stages, manufacturers had immense powers over the consumers. By the turn of the 1970s, the power shifted to consumers owing to the rise of the levels of competition (Easey 2009).
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One critical aspect that business entities acknowledge is that the environment is overly dynamic. Besides, customers want innovativeness as they are easily bored by consuming the same products. Hence, fashion industry players seeking to remain competitive and relevant in the industry are obliged to pay attention to the innovativeness and novelty. Due to the changing market patterns, industry players get the opportunity to create new products, employment opportunities, and generate additional income among other things (Easey 2009).
Concisely, the fashion market is characterized by a short life cycle, high volatility, low predictability and impulsive purchase behavior. A short life cycle implies that a fashionable product does not retain such status for a long time. Regarding volatility, reference is made to the unpredictable nature of the industry.
The fashion industry ranks as one of those industries that contribute significantly to economic growth. As a high value sector, the fashion industry boosts countries’ and individual entities’ earnings greatly (Brïdson & Jody 2004). Thus, the performance of the fashion industry is an issue of the concern that interests scholars. However, it is noted that assessing organizational performance is a demanding aspect given the multifaceted nature of the concept of performance. In order to optimize organizational performance, improving productivity is necessary.
Currently, the globe is facing a rapid degree in market liberalization. The opening up of world markets has coincided with an increase in the levels of competition among fashion industry players. It is however noted that forecasting demand in the fashion industry is a complicated affair since firms operate in diverse products with a very short life cycle. Besides, the fashion industry is subject to seasonal variations, weather conditions, promotions, marketing campaigns (such as advertising) and socioeconomic factors (Waarts & van Everdingen 2006).
From above, the need to develop performance metrics to ease the assessment of organizational outcomes becomes a primary concern. In a competitive market, a measure of efficiency would provide a plausible indicator of a firm in the fashion industry. In the pursuit of attaining a high level of competitiveness, and reducing market reaction periods, business process management assumes an added significance owing to the role it can play in harnessing organizational performance. The process is instrumental in enhancing daily operations within firms.
Owing to the complex nature of the issue of assessing performance not only within the fashion industry, many researchers in the field call for the promotion of using multiple perspectives when reviewing performance. Kaplan and Norton (1996) argued in favor of employing the BSC when assessing an organization’s performance. The BSC is preferred because it offers overall enterprise view on performance. In addition, the perspective integrates key performance metrics based on customer views, internal business processes, organizational learning, innovation and growth, and financial measures.
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Significance of the Study
From the introductory part of the study, it is apparent that the fashion industry is critical in the overall developmental process of countries since it generates revenue and employment opportunities. Thus, carrying a study in order to help a deeper understanding of the success factors is desirable. Besides, existing knowledge on the business environment demonstrates that dynamism is highly prevalent. Hence, operations and other activities keep changing. In such a light, conducting a study on success factors is important in highlighting the changes that the industry has undergone or faces. Another contribution of the study is towards enriching the existing literature on the topic.
The proposed research will seek to respond to the following research questions. Answering the questions would facilitate the attainment of the research objectives which are listed in the subsequent subsection.
- What are the success factors in the fashion industry?
- Do the success factors have the same effect in different organizations?
- What is the current development status of the fashion industry?
Research Objectives and Framework
The research has a primary objective of identifying success factors in the fashion industry. In order to attain this objective, closely related specific objectives are pursued. They include: the identification of the universality of the success factors in the industry and the current state of development in the fashion industry. Identifying whether the factors apply to other firms is critical in informing debates on the universality of the success factors, and whether they are applicable to the organization. In regards to the development of the fashion industry, it is expected that having identified the success factors, it would be possible to gauge the level of development in the industry.
According to Newman and Patel (2004), walking through Europe indicates similarities in retail outlets despite the location. The implication is that internationalization has been widely adopted by retailers in the fashion industry. The European unification also aided the internationalization process. It remains surprising that many similarities appear despite the diversity in cultures and local values.
A number of authors who have focused on the fashion industry have classified critical success factors bordering on international retail business (Wigley & Moore 2005). The deficiency can be addressed by identifying critical success factors that apply to international retail in consideration to the way they vary from those deemed pertinent to some international retailers. In response to such an observation, approaches in which international retailers can manipulate the marketing mix based on critical success factors are suggested. Focusing on the two companies is helpful in highlighting the factors.
Based on a review of internationalization literature by Akehurst and Alexander (1996), six themes emerge. The first issue gravitates around the internationalization of retailing. Secondly, the authors pose the question about who the international retailers are. The other questions posed include: where the retailers internationalize, the reason for internationalization, how retailers internationalize, and the point at which does internationalization takes place.
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Focusing on the given attributes of the retail industry, international retailing borders on visibility. The invisible dimension captures the element of sourcing products or services internationally and transfers management practices and skills across border. In this regard, the fashion industry remains largely invisible since it processes products abroad and transfers management practices without having to run the stores literally. As pointed out by Moore, Fernie and Burt (2000), transferring of skills is integral to the development of globally appealing brands in the fashion industry.
Researchers in the field of fashion have grouped international retailers based on their retail formats, market strategies and sizes. Nevertheless, studies have indicated that the defining characteristics of international retailers are not found in their tangible features. Instead, they are found in their philosophical competencies and attitudes which influence physical aspects. Studies based on case studies have indicated that high-performing retailers show similarities in decision-making frameworks, personal skills and management attitudes. The commonality is apparent regardless of retail format, product segmentation and size. Although some accommodate fashion companies when categorizing international retailers, few classify them as unique organizations. Moore, Fernie and Burt (2000) categorized international retailers in the fashion industry into designer retailers, general merchandize, product specialists and/or general retailers. Product specialists are those retailers focused on a narrow range of products that are defined by a specific customer base. On the other hand, designer retailers concentrate on internationally recognized products, hence they are based on exclusive positioning. For general merchandize retailers, attention shifts to those retailers who focus on mixing both fashion and non-fashion products. Regarding general retailers, the focus is on those entities that stock a wide range of products, which are accessible, based on their pricing. Retailers are positioned by virtue of product offering and marketing efforts which influence the appeal of brands (Brïdson & Jody 2004).
According to Wysokińska (2002), management attitudes play an influential role regarding firms’ expansion choices. The extent of uncertainty in foreign markets or the psychic distance are cited as a contributing factor to the decisions about entities’ expansion plans. However, other studies such as the one by Wysokińska (2002) have shown that some retailers sidestep psychological barriers because they offer desirable products. Usually, such retailers operate within the luxury segments or offer specialist products. In overcoming psychic barriers, retailers use products, lifestyles, images and niche differentials in order to market their products. It is noted that retailers dealing with distinctive brands employ the approach.
Researchers in the field have identified various success factors. Such factors include forecasting, corporate social responsibility, buyer-seller relationships and supply chain management (Wigley & Moore 2005). Regarding forecasting, it is observed that to address market turbulences reflected by unstable and unpredictable market demand, price changes, heterogeneous desires, style and quality consciousness, competitive intensity, buyer power, product saturation and differentiation, dealers in the fashion industry have to master trends. To have information on such aspects, the role of forecasting becomes indispensable in the industry. As technology and its application to business intensify, consumer preferences and market behavior keep shifting, thus it becomes increasingly difficult to operate without having a proper forecasting framework. In the current times, firms cannot rely on the traditional approaches to doing business.
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It is noted that fashion customers largely depend on intuition and related feelings when assessing market offerings. According to Ghemawat and Nueno (2003), relying on intuitions, structured planning and research, accurate forecasting becomes a possibility. In the pursuit of improving sales, retailers in the fashion industry need to build robust forecasting frameworks to understand the market dynamics. Similarly, organizations must learn on how to deliver the forecasted (researched) products in a timely manner. Learning to deliver as directed by forecasts is better than producing products randomly since retailers have a primary concern of satisfying consumer needs with particular attention to product, place and time.
On the average it took sixty-six weeks to process raw materials to a consumable product during the 1980s (Mattila 2009).The manufacturing process consumed eleven weeks while forty weeks the products were in warehouses. For the final fifteen weeks, the products were stocked in stores. Nowadays, a twelve-month lead-time has become common. Based on estimates, the current lead-time predisposes forecasts to forty percent error. However, reducing the lead-time by three months would lead to shrinking in the error by seventeen percent. In practice, shortening the lead-time results in a reduction in the forecasting error (Mattila 2009).
Complexities involved in the retailing of fashion products are associated with the responsiveness of demand and the lengthy globalised supply chain. However, the lengthy chain allows retailers to forecast by focusing on product demand curves or scanning customer preferences. Relying on statistical tools and analyses, retailers have an opportunity to review past trends in order to predict future trends. Retailers can also depend on cultural indicators in a bid to developing a deeper insight on a given market. According to Dawson (1994), the history of previous or past sales provides a major indicator in forecasting.
Adopting sales forecasts requires the assessors to pay attention to forecasting demand and its implications. Often, taking decisions regarding product offerings is based on rational predictions done using the best possible intelligence available to retailers. However, it is noted that success levels of such predictions have remained low in the past. According to Waarts and van Everdingen (2006), fashion markets are volatile in nature, hence it is very difficult to predict its efficiency. From the previous points, it also became apparent that forecasting is subjected to errors. Hence, for forecasting to be helpful in the business, industry players need to adopt robust systems that minimize probability of errors while increasing predictive power.
It is an understatement to claim that forecasting is an integral element to the fashion business. Thus, enhancing the accuracy of forecasts is of paramount interest to retailers. In a bid to bridge the gap between theoretical forecast benefits and outcomes, understanding the gap at the managerial level, data sharing gap (based on confidentiality matters at the industry level), and political gap which borders on hidden management agenda is critical.
Under the issue of sales forecasting climate, a manager needs to examine the state as an opportunity to improve forecasting performance. The management must also ensure that forecasting frameworks are credible. Organizational managements need to enhance sales forecasting capabilities by building strong teams that interpret results accurately.
When concentrating on performance outcomes, linking forecasting and business performance takes center stage. Thus, it is important to devise useful measures which managers can apply in order to get information necessary to diagnose organizational problems. The same is also necessary as it guides managers to motivate staff to work harder for the gain of an organization. In line with the above attributes, performance measurement assumes added significance since it extends an opportunity to improve the accuracy of forecasting. Hence, it is critical in enhancing forecast capability.
Buyer-seller relationship is a major success factor in the fashion industry. Players gain competitive leverage by managing network systems in their supply chains efficiently. Thus, shortening supply chains with a view to manufacturing precise product varieties and quantities is supported. Organizations place much emphasis on the success of supply chains in reference to direct interaction, geographical proximity, face-to-face relationships amongst buyers and suppliers. However as Newman and Patel (2004) observed, in order to improve existing supply chains practices should remain relatively undervalued.
As the worth of demand in supply chains rise, focus also shifts to activities bordering on the communication of demand between the market and suppliers. Such a shift has led to the growth in the stature of the term, demand chain management. The later term concentrates on the sharing of knowledge which is critical in the linking up of manufacturers and markets. Connection between the two parties is crucial as it helps in the understanding and matching of supply and demand.
One of the most debated questions in the current times is whether corporate social responsibilities (CSR) benefit organizations. It is suggested that corporate social responsibility commences at the point where the law ends. Thus, companies expressing their awareness of societal needs practice CSR. Adopting a CSR policy is geared towards satisfying customer expectations, improving environmental performance, demonstrating a commitment to societal responsibilities, and enhancing employee motivation.
According to Hemingway (2005), business entities need to respond to five types of social needs. One of the needs borders on economic responsibility. Economic responsibilities demand that organizations should be profitable, which is a fundamental aspect that determines the sustenance of business. Secondly, legal responsibilities, which revolve around the need to obey the law, form another part of CSR. Thirdly, ethical responsibilities must be discharged. In this regard, organizations must go beyond legal provisions in a bid to creating a supportive environment for both the business and society. Lastly, discretionary responsibilities form an important part of CSR. Concisely, the discretionary responsibility demands organizations to be good corporate citizens.
Whereas the fashion industry strives to adapt to the current challenges, CSR requirements contribute the complications that must be dealt with. In particular, the fashion industry is viewed as consumerist and producerist. Besides, the fashion industry has been questioned for its reliance on pesticides in the production of cotton, volumes of consumption, employee working conditions and the disposal of used clothes. According to the Cooperative Bank (2008), the net worth of ethical products keeps increasing. According to Matten, Crane and Chapple (2003), ethical consumerism has increased greatly based on the finding that in the UK it rose by 35%. Ultimately, companies are realizing the need to produce ethical products and trading ethically. In brief, fashion industry players now realize the need to inculcate ethics into their overall business strategies.
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Literature on how CSR influences organizations is abundant. Authors such as Matten, Crane and Chapple (2003) focused on reviewing over one hundred studies on the topic. Particularly, the focus was on the association between CSR and organizational performance. In spite of the common view that CSR is beneficial to organizations, counterarguments exist.
According to Friedman (2000), in free societies business organizations have the primary responsibility of carrying out activities intended to increase profitability without sacrificing the adherence to the laws of the land. Thus, based on Friedman’s position, organizations should avoid activities which do not contribute to increasing earnings. However, it is noted that practicing corporate social responsibility is one of the best approaches towards ensuring sustainability. Given that in the modern times organizations are gaining much power as compared to states, discharging CSR would enhance the position that such entities play within societies.
Davis (2007) is among the scholars who hold that CSR introduces additional costs to the organizations. The two observed that despite being short-term in nature, other costs drag for longer periods since the responsibility runs for an entity’s lifetime. In practice, costs are incurred in the purchase of equipment, altering management structures, or adopting stricter procedural controls. Based on the above regard, being socially responsible has additional obligations to organizations. The implication is that before adopting a CSR policy, informed scrutiny is required.
Research Methodology and Design
In this chapter, the focus is on presenting the methodological approach that the study intends to employ. Since the study seeks to establish the success factors in the fashion industry, a cross-sectional research design will be used. Using the purposive sampling approach, there is an intention to use a sample of five fashion outlets for the research. The data presentation and methods of analysis are also presented.
The construction of a research design remains a central aspect in the research process. As indicated above, the proposed study will employ a cross-sectional research design. Such a study design is known for its three unique features, which include the absence of time dimension, reliance on existing variations rather than differences following an intervention and selection of respondents based on prevailing differences instead of random sampling as enumerated by Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (2006). It is noted that cross-sectional designs measure differences between phenomena, subjects or people instead of change. As a result, researchers are advised to exercise relative passiveness in drawing inferences after study findings.
In practice, cross-section studies provide a snapshot regarding issues and the characteristics of a phenomenon at a specific time (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 2006). Unlike an experimental design which permits researchers’ active interventions, a cross-sectional design focuses on reviewing and drawing inferences demonstrable out of existing variations. The design requires the collection of data to take place at a specific point. Thus, the design contrasts a longitudinal one which focuses on data collection over extended periods. It is also noted that subjects are purposely selected for a study. An important feature of cross-sectional designs rests on the idea that they are not geographical-bound. For this reason, the collection of data can extend beyond a given geographical location. Such designs are also advantageous since they are cheaper besides consuming little time.
In spite of the many benefits of applying the cross-section design, identifying subjects, phenomena or people for a study exhibiting similarities in a specific variable is not easy. Another worry is that results based on cross-sectional designs remain static, in addition to being time bound. Consequently, the results do not indicate historical trends or sequence of events. Moreover, such studies cannot demonstrate cause-effect associations.
Sources of Data
As already mentioned, the study focuses on success factors in the fashion industry. Hence, the population of the study will be managers and workers of the fashion industry. The area of study is region X. For that reason, managers and workers from five fashion outlets in region X will form the study population. Managers and workers in the fashion industry will be the units of observation.
Sample and Sampling Technique
The proposed study will apply the purposive sampling technique. As a sampling technique, the purposive sampling is a non-probability sampling technique which permits researchers to decide the subjects to include in a study sample (Wiederman 1999). Such decisions depend on a wide range of criterions which include: the possession of expert knowledge, willingness and capacity to take part in a study. In the same way, some study designs demand researchers to make decisions regarding respondents who contribute the most suitable data in reference to depth and weight of the research. Purposive sampling provides a justification to generalise irrespective of the generalizations being analytical, logical or theoretical.
Data Collection Instrument
The study will use questionnaires to collect data. Questionnaires are study instruments with statements or questions and prompts that guide respondents in adducing data. Some of the advantages of questionnaires include being cheap, requiring less effort and having standardized answers as observed by Leung (2001). However, the standardization of answers might constrain some respondents whose answers fall outside the given limits. In the proposed study, the questionnaire used will be divided into two parts: part 1- containing preliminary questions, and part 2 – containing fashion industry success factors.
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Data Collection Procedures and Analysis
The collection of data will involve the questionnaire administration to the business managers and workers. Despite the presence of many approaches to questionnaire administration, the proposed study will use hand-delivery.
The collected data will be presented using tables. Besides, the data will be transformed into percentages in order to make its analysis easier. There is also an intention to employ descriptive and inferential statistics in analyzing the data. When describing the data, the focus will be on the features of the organizations that were selected. Under inferential statics, attempts will be made to draw generalizations based on the study outcomes.
When carrying out studies, ethical conduct must be followed. A study of the current nature requires managers and workers to put aside their duties to participate. Thus, the researcher may be compelled to compensate the respondents for their time. Besides, the researcher is supposed to inform the study participants the ramifications of talking part in the study. For instance, the respondents need to be informed on how they stand to gain from taking part. Another aspect is about confidentiality of the participating entities. Since business is sensitive, all information obtained will be used only for the purposes of this study.
The paper outlines that the proposed study has a primary objective of identifying success factors in the fashion industry. In this regard, one of the outcomes will be the identification of the fashion industry’s success factors. A second outcome would be the establishment of the current state of development in the industry. The last outcome will center on understanding whether the success factors have the same effect in different organizations.