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Retailer, what's your proportion of the 28kg of clothes I buy a year and how could it be more?

A recent study from the Cambridge University shows that a woman buys as an average 28kg of a year. I looked a bit deeper to the subject and considered RFID's ability to grow the share of the 7 billion kg of the purchases European women buy a year.

We, European women buy altogether 7 billion kilograms of clothes a year and that is four times as much as 30 years ago. Clearly the Fast Fashion retailers have moved our consumption towards buying more clothes and following trends far faster. Catwalk trends are copied faster and faster and celebrity styles from red carpets make it to the stores within weeks. After the royal wedding, a replica of Kate's dress appeared on the window of a Finnish bridal shop only a week after the wedding. The style of the dress she wore for the announcing of the engagement hit web shops within a day and sold out in hours.

As I read the article about how much clothes we purchase, I had no choice, but to visit my wardrobe and see for myself. To be honest, I (and I assure you I'm not alone), cannot state all the clothes I purchased during the past year. Nor could I really weigh them on my scale at home. So I had to do the next best thing, I took my purchases in May so far and weighed them.

Below average, it cannot be!

I haven't been shopping too much lately as we've been decorating the house, so it has taken some of my budget.

Yet I thought I would have amounted above the 2kg that I measured. But the reality is that the 5 tops, two dresses, one jumpsuit, a pair of shorts, two necklaces and two pairs of ear rings, one scarf, one bracelet and one hat didn't amount to more. So if I was only to trust this month's measures I'd be below the average and even if I was to count in the clothes I've bought for my son I barely get the 2,3kg to get the 28kg in the end of the year. In reality, it is the season I'd say, the fabrics are all light weight and there is anyway a little of it in summer clothes. I'm sure once the autumn season kicks in again, I'll be above the average again.

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Speed to market

No matter what we answer to researchers all over Europe, we do make our purchases based on the trends, celebrity styles, prices and the preferences we have. There are of course groups of consumers who make their purchases based on their values, but just the kilograms and kilograms of clothes we buy prove how much we really buy with the thinking "I'll use this at this weeks' party and next week I'll buy a new one". And retailers - you should be happy we do. I think I once calculated that I own 150+ tops and t-shirts and I'm not ashamed of it.

When you look at the trend, it is clear that the speed to market is no longer just a marketing strategy - it is becoming the essence of survival. The leading fast fashion retailers state trend recognition as their main area of interest for this year, the Apparel Magazine lists the top technology as well as business trends for the current year and one of the leading ones is communicating with consumers on new media as well as faster consumer trend recognition.

Recognition of trends is not everything though. Researchers all over the world follow the largest Fast Fashion companies to understand how to fine-tune operations and to be able to provide goods to store within weeks of design. The success factors include at least a very streamlined supply chain, correct and in-time orders, strategies around items that have the longest lead times (e.g. good prognosis applications) as well as the efficient usage of POS data. Combining these factors together with RFID could lift the first adopter the next H&M or Inditex of the industry. One of the best known RFID adoptions in the world is Gerry Weber who tag their items to 100% very profitability. In their latest press release they forecast a 10% growth for the year 2011!

Why would my proportion of the 28kg be more if I jumped in now?

The items in my box are from retailers that run significant operations in Finland and Scandinavia. They are not necessary the largest in the area, although some are. The top 2 European retailers are both well represented in my basket. Why? Because the items are easily accessible and of course as they've been successful in providing the items to their stores just in time I wanted to buy them in summer: May has been warm, the sun has been shining a lot and thus, the well performing retailers have also updated their store windows with the bright summer colors. I would have bought even more from my favorite store, which is a local one if they had just the stock I wanted to.

The latest "Styles" magazine just referred to the fact that we purchase 50% of our items (ie 14kg a year) on discount. Why is this? Because retailers have not adopted the "speed to market" tools and hence cannot either perfect their supply chain or cannot recognize the consumer trends well enough and thus end up providing wrong stock to their outlets. The investment in RFID reportedly pays back and fast. Additionally it will lift the adopting companies to the premier league of apparel retail!

Read more:

Apparel Magazine / Rethinking speed to market

Are you buying your weight in clothes?

2011 Top Technology Trends

7 comments on “Retailer, what's your proportion of the 28kg of clothes I buy a year and how could it be more?”

  1. Posted 27 May 2011 at 17:12:39

    This is truly good reading for a retailer and for a customer. Do I dare to weigh in my shoppings for May, let alone a whole year. :)

  2. Posted 06 June 2011 at 14:01:15

    Fascinating!

    So many questions....does this volume of purchasing,feed the house-building of the future? ie do we need larger houses to store the extra clothes and shoes?

    I was once advised by a friend to always remove an old item when buying a new one, which I do but I dont think this is the case generally?

    Therefore, if stocks are increasing in volume and value, why wouldn't this evolve into the future use of a speedy and low cost RFID asset tracking and locating requirement in our homes. I'm sure Insurance Companies would have an interest/opinion on this!
    As an ex-Retailer I remember the "holy grail" was to have a faster and more accurate control over replensihment...you only have to visit the American Apparel stores in Oxford Street, Carnaby Street or Camden to see this being achieved today, with our Merlin RFID devices!!

  3. Gravatar of Jessica SailaJessica Saila
    Posted 07 June 2011 at 13:55:57

    Fantastic questions from Mark! You know, the study did suggest that women do throw away almost 28kg of clothes a year too, but they are not the last season ones, but the previous or even before that.

    I absolutely need a tracking system for my clothes at home - woudln't it be fantastic if the system could immediately tell me which clothes I originally bought to be worn together and which jewellery goes with them. As well as locate all the clothes from home ie: wardrobe 1, wardrobe 2, washing machine etc. And when my wahsing machine becomes RFID enabled, of course it would be perfect that it knew just how to wash my clothes (not that this hasn't been invented yet, it is just it's not used yet).

  4. Posted 15 June 2011 at 21:24:11

    I would absolutely go for an RFID tracking system in-house as well. Jessica, lead on this innovation. Never again a day when you don't know what to wear and how to accessorize. :)

  5. Gravatar of Hanna ÖstmanHanna Östman
    Posted 25 July 2011 at 16:14:33

    Great idea! This way it would be easier to make sure you even remember to use all your new clothes for the season while they are still trendy. I know I tend to forget what I've bought.

    I would love an RFID system that makes outfit suggestions for me every morning. Based on what I haven't worn in a while, what's clean and ironed and why not even the weather I could look stylish every day without having to use my tired morning head.

  6. Gravatar of Mukesh Mukesh
    Posted 09 August 2011 at 13:40:18

    @mirva...I am sure there is a solution to track personal belongings and we can have sensors in the wardrobe and soft tags on each garment so that we have the complete description of the clothes in your wardrobe. Best part is that you can also mention the person's name if you receive it as a gift :) . RFID is so vast just a bit of customizing and you have a new RFID product for everything. Its the future.

  7. Posted 10 August 2011 at 13:02:35

    Hi Mukesh,

    You are absolutely right. This is all already possible. Just waiting for it to happen. Exciting times!

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