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Excess inventory. Losing pace with shifts in customer behavior. Erosion of gross margin. Selling on markdowns. Missing forecasts. No time for innovation.

What do these have in common?

These are the symptoms of a retailer suffering from a lack of speed.

Speed to market, that is.

If you skim recent headlines, this is what you’ll find:

  • Excess inventory woes of familiar names like Target and Walmart.
  • A third of footwear executives are now citing shifts in customer behavior as their biggest issue for the remainder of 2022 — a variable not addressed in previous quarters.
  • Supply chain disruption continues to linger, resulting in inflated lead times.

The fact is many brands still plan assortments 12 months to 18 months in advance, despite the headlines. And the assortment planning timeline hasn’t changed much from when I began my retail career over 20 years ago.

Unless you’re a fast-fashion retailer. Zara and Shein have the capacity to hit the market in less than a month with new product. This is done with localized manufacturing and staying ahead of customer shifts with influencers and insights; the speed from concept to market is unprecedented.

We can see that fast can be done.

Naturally, the question becomes why retailers are bogged down to begin with. Here’s what I’ve seen:


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