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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0959-0552.htm

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

www.emeraldinsight.com/0959-0552.htm

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Received February 2009 Revised May 2010 Accepted May 2010

Fast fashion in the retail store environment

Liz Barnes

Department of Textiles, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, and

Gaynor Lea-Greenwood

Department of Clothing Design and Technology, Faculty of Food, Clothing and Hospitality Management, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

Abstract

Purpose – The paper aims to establish how fast fashion is translated and communicated in the retail store environment. Design/methodology/approach – An interpretive paradigm and inductive methodology made use of participant observation and key informant interviews. Findings – Whilst efficiencies in the supply chain have facilitated fast fashion’s success, centralised control structures have meant that these efficiencies and flexibilities have not been translated into the retail store environment. Marketing communications activity is evident in relation to aspects of fast fashion, for example, through the use of “hero pieces” as identified in this research, however, availability and retail presence must support the fast fashion proposition. Research limitations/implications – The paper has a UK focus where fast fashion is well established, therefore generalisations relating to other fashion markets may not be appropriate. Practical implications – Retailers may have interest in the findings to gain competitive advantage in fast fashion. Originality/value – Academic research on fast fashion research is still in its infancy, however this paper provides some unique insights into the phenomenon which may add to the nascent literature.

Keywords United Kingdom, Retailing, Fashion industry, Supply chain management, Merchandising, Demand

Paper type Research paper

management, Merchandising, Demand Paper type Research paper International Journal of Retail & Distribution

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management Vol. 38 No. 10, 2010 pp. 760-772 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited

0959-0552

DOI 10.1108/09590551011076533

Introduction Fast fashion has become a key feature of the UK fashion industry over the last decade. Although it was initially regarded as a niche concept offered by a few key players such as Zara and H&M, the concept has now been adopted in one form or another by virtually all the key own-label retailers in the UK fashion market (Baker, 2008; Just-Style , 2009), using improved and more efficient supply chains to be more responsive to changing trends and consumer demand. Previous research into fast fashion has focused on the supply chain aspect of the strategy. This paper focuses on the notional end of the supply chain, with an examination of what happens to fast fashion once it is delivered into the store addressing the translation of fast fashion in the retail environment and analysing how it is communicated to consumers. To this end, four garments categorised as fast fashion merchandise, during a particular time frame were investigated in store to establish the responsiveness of the retail environment.

The fast fashion concept The principle underpinning fast fashion is the reduction of lead times to get product from concept to consumer (Barnes and Lea-Greenwood, 2006; Sull and Turconi, 2008). Fast fashion is a concept whereby retailers orientate their business strategies to reduce the time taken to get fashion product into store, working on a system of in-season buying so product ranges are consistently updated throughout the season. The fast fashion approach also takes into account the nature of consumer demand representing a move away from supply chains driven by manufacturer/designer “push” to demand chains driven by consumer “pull” (Doyle et al., 2006; Sull and Turconi, 2008). Therefore, the impetus that underpins the fast fashion concept is lead time and consumer demand:

Fast fashion is a business strategy which aims to reduce the processes involved in the buying cycle and lead times for getting new fashion product into stores, in order to satisfy consumer demand at its peak (Barnes and Lea-Greenwood, 2006, p. 259).

The inclusion of consumer demand as a facet of fast fashion suggests a broadened

theory of fast fashion, building on the in-season buying and reduced lead time concept

to incorporate “newness” as a key feature of fast fashion, in other words, continual

renewal and updating of ranges and merchandise delivered to the store.

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Fashion trends and consumer demand

A combination of factors have taken place in the fashion market which have

contributed to the rise of fast fashion. Fashion trends work along the principle of product lifecycle (PLC) management whereby products have a limited time in the market place from their introduction to decline (Bruce and Barnes, 2005). There has been a decline in the length of fashion PLCs which has put pressure on retailers to replenish more frequently as they simply need more product ranges to keep up to date. The PLCs of fashion products have decreased from months to weeks and even days (Sull and Turconi, 2008; Barnes et al., 2007). Consumers have become increasingly fashion “savvy” and are interested in fashion and appearance for longer, therefore the size of the market for fashion product has increased (Bruce and Daly, 2006; Mintel, 2009). It is suggested that the phenomenal growth in media and magazine availability and its coverage of fashion has contributed to this growth in the fashion aware consumer (Barnes et al. , 2007; Doyle et al., 2006). As consumers become more confident about fashion, the growth in demand for new fashion product increases and in the UK fashion consumers now want ever changing styles (Bruce and Daly, 2006; Barnes, 2008). Mintel (2007) identified the importance of media in influencing trend searching behaviour on the high street whereby consumers look to magazines for ideas about the latest trends and then actively search for these key pieces. Weekly glossy magazines in particular have been identified as key information providers and increasingly television shows also have a strong fashion focus. Indeed fashion pervades all aspects of the media from broad sheets to tabloid newspapers, popular television shows to serious documentaries and is a particular feature of the twenty first century zeitgeist. Catwalks have traditionally been the drivers of fashion and Zara’s fast fashion proposition has been based on the interpretation of catwalk trends (Doeringer and Crean, 2006; Sull and Turconi, 2008), however, celebrity driven trends are also phenomenally important at high street level as fashion consumers look to

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celebrities (usually through the weekly magazines) as style advisers (Crompton, 2004). This interest in fashion means that consumers are shopping more frequently as demand is driven by weekly magazines and daily television shows, so they expect to see new looks and the latest pieces every time they shop (Barnes, 2008). Therefore, we conclude that fast fashion is being driven by catwalk styles, celebrity looks and the desire for newness, particularly those items identified in the media which create interest and drive

762 high levels of consumer demand.

Fast fashion and supply chain concepts The theoretical underpinning of fast fashion is derived from the literature of supply chain management. It is now firmly established within the context of fast fashion that effective management of the supply chain is a key concept. Moves to improve responsiveness of supply chains in the fashion industry have been made with the introduction of concepts such as:

Just-in-time ( JIT) – Bruce et al. (2004) addressed JIT in a fashion context to be the delivery of finished goods to meet consumer demand rather than holding expensive inventory.

Agile supply chains – have been addressed by Christopher et al. (2004) and Bruce et al. (2004), describing shorter, more flexible, demand driven supply chains. The key difference in agile supply chains, according to Christopher et al. (2004) is that they are driven by information such as market data and information-sharing between businesses in the supply chain. To fulfil consumer demand for fast fashion, attention has been paid to the ability to respond to dynamic fashion consumer demand. Bergvall-Forsberg and Towers (2007) address this and suggest that sourcing garments closer to consumer markets, particularly in continental Europe, creates agile supply networks.

Quick response – synonymous with the textile and apparel supply chain more recently applied to fashion forward garments (Christopher et al. , 2004; Giunipero et al. , 2001). Fernie and Azuma (2004) focused on the notion of integration and collaboration in quick response to improve supply chain efficiency.

Demand chains – in a study outside the fashion industry, the concept of having customer focused supply chains was defined by de Treville et al. (2004) as “efficient physical supply of the product”.

Fast fashion is about the ability to react to trends and improve response times (Hayes and Jones, 2006), therefore fast fashion is linked with the concept of supply chain management and quick response (Barnes and Lea-Greenwood, 2006; Sheridan et al., 2006). Therefore, analysing these supply chain concepts, the notion of fast fashion is characterised by interrogation of supply chain theories with the fashion consumer at its heart. Indeed, the paper by Barnes and Lea-Greenwood (2007) went some way to provide a thorough review of the extant literature in this field, alongside empirical evidence to develop a greater understanding of the fast fashion concept, developing a research framework and concluding that at the crux of the fast fashion strategy was an orientation which is responsive to consumer demand. Therefore, the natural extension of empirical research would appear to be an exploration of fast fashion within the retail environment where consumer demand meets the conclusion of the supply chain.

.

.

.

.

The academic literature review presented here demonstrates that the focus of research tended to be on the supply chain aspects of fast fashion but has largely ignored what happens at the notional “end” of the supply chain, once it has been delivered to the store.

The retail environment Much of the literature agrees on how important the retail environment is in terms of supporting and ensuring that product is available to the customer at the conclusion of the supply chain. Kent (2007), highlights the shift in emphasis to the consumer experience of the retail environment, rather than a focus on manufacturing and supply chain domination. Furthermore, the visual merchandising of the retail environment is considered to be key in the visual marketing communication of a retailer, acting as a promotional tool (Lea-Greenwood, 2009). The retail environment is characterised by a number of physical elements which converge to create a distinctive image appropriate to the fashion merchandise in which a retailer specialises. McGoldrick (2002) and Varley and Raffiq (2004) agree that the retail environment is a combination of physical and emotional: tangible and intangible attributes (Table I). All of these attributes collectively contribute to the overall in-store communication of the product or retailer with an overarching aim to encourage purchase, however, the physical attributes of the store are those that focus on the communication elements of the environment (Kerfoot et al., 2003). The focus of this research relates to the way in which fast fashion is communicated in the retail environment. Furthermore, the focus of the research is ultimately about product, i.e. to establish how fast fashion merchandise is displayed and communicated. Therefore, it is necessary to further explore the literature on retail environments closely related to the physical and tangible aspects as identified in Table I, specifically those attributes which are closely related to the product for example the window display, layout and merchandising and signage, rather than the attributes associated with the architecture and design of the store.

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Window display Lea-Greenwood (1998) describes the window as a vitally important visual communication tool. The window display is described as being the initial way a store will attract the attention of the consumer (Lea-Greenwood, 2009) and a study by Edwards and Shackley (1992) found that new products placed in the window display increased sales and enhanced the positive image of the retailer. According to Sullivan and Adcock (2002, p. 216), “The main features of window display are visual appeal,

Physical and tangible attributes

Emotional and intangible attributes

Fascia Overall store design Window display Layout and merchandising Fixtures and fittings Decoration Signage

Sources: Adapted from Lea-Greenwood (1998); McGoldrick (2004); Varley and Raffiq (2004)

Ambience

Image

Positioning

Branding

Sensory perceptions

Emotional connection

Table I. Summary of the attributes associated with the retail environment

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relevance and interest value”. Therefore, it can be argued that the window display

is an important communication tool which can attract the target consumer by creating

a display that is pertinent to their needs. If fast fashion is about immediacy in terms of trend and consumer demand, then the window display is the initial point of contact and

communication, yet literature relating to the window as a communication tool for fast fashion has not been explored.

Layout and display

The key feature of store layout is the way in which it is used to try to influence the movement of consumers in the store guiding them to more merchandise as well as providing communication cues to the consumer (Lusch et al. , 2011). The layout of a store also provides retailers with an opportunity to create interest in the product

(Varley, 2006). Evidence suggests that “[

than three times the selling power of the back third”. (McGoldrick, 2004). McGoldrick (2004) also explains that the front of the store is typically used to communicate an impression of the store and high demand items will be strategically positioned there. As previously discussed, fast fashion merchandise is focused on product associated with newness, excitement and high consumer demand, yet the way in which fast fashion merchandise is positioned in-store layouts has not been addressed. Display is an aspect of the store environment which communicates information about the products to the consumer (Hart and Davies, 1996). It plays an important role in the creation and support of the proposition of the retailer, as well as highlighting and drawing attention to merchandise (Varley, 2006). The way in which product is displayed in store can also influence consumer behaviour and aid purchasing decisions (Lea-Greenwood, 1998), providing prominence for a range or garment, communicating and reinforcing the store image (Sullivan and Adcock, 2002). In relation to fast fashion, display merchandising could be seen as a method for reinforcing store image and fashion credentials once inside the store, aiding decision making and acting as supporting communications activity as well as reflecting and reinforcing the promotional message.

has more

]

the front third of the store [

]

Signage To date, signage has not been well researched in the academic literature on retail environment. Indeed, Turley and Milliman (2000) reviewed the key literature on retail environment and recommended signage as a future area for exploration since there was

a gap in the literature. However, a study by Lea-Greenwood (2009) describes signage as a

crucial element of visual communication as it provides a “short cut” to communication relating to product in store. Signage in the retail environment may fall into two categories, the first being institutional and directional, fixed signage includes more permanent signs indicating areas and facilities of the store for example, fitting rooms, exits, ladieswear, pay stations, etc. (Lusch et al. , 2011). The signage associated with alerting customers to fast fashion is representative of the second category which includes signage that is more flexible and has immediacy in providing information and promoting purchase. This type of signage is known as “point of purchase” (POP) material, and may include: speaker cards, posters, graphics, swing tickets, etc. For fast fashion, the POP signage may reflect and reinforce media coverage and other promotional activities, although current literature does not reflect the specifics of this.

The literature on fast fashion and three key components of the retail environment are identified as the being those which offer the best opportunity for translating and communicating fast fashion in store. The aspects of fast fashion and the retail environment explored in the literature provide an understanding and inform the framework used for the observations and interviews as described in the methodology.

Methodology In considering the literature from the point of view of the retail environment, it is clear there are a number of areas which require academic research to gain a better understanding of how the fast fashion concept is translated in the retail environment. The literature has established the importance of the retail environment as the interface between the supply chain and the consumer and therefore the retail environment represents the fast fashion interface making it strategically important in the communication of the fast fashion proposition. The literature review concludes that there is a gap with regard to considering fast fashion in the retail environment which gives rise to the key research question: how is fast fashion translated in the retail environment with particular reference to how the retail environment is used to visually communicate the fast fashion proposition? Owing to the relatively new study and nature of fast fashion, this research subject lends itself to an inductive approach where in-store participant observation, alongside key informant interviews provides a basis for data collection. The study took an interpretive and inductive approach, recommended by Saunders et al. (2007). The interpretive approach is regarded as being more suited to a qualitative study where there is a lack of theory (Collis and Hussey, 2009). Furthermore, an inductive approach operates on the basis of making observations resulting in statements of general patterns resulting from the empirical evidence presented, which comprises of collecting data and developing theory as a result of analysis. The literature identifies characteristics of timeliness and immediacy as being the key aspects of fast fashion, for example, the consumer sees the garment in a magazine and is prompted to seek out the garment in store “immediately”. The aim of the research focuses on understanding how fast fashion is translated in the retail environment, and to do this, participant observation was used to identify how fast fashion garments which had been featured in the press were presented in the retail environment. The research was therefore carried out in a specific period of time during a one week period in June 2008, which enabled the researchers to “capture” the timeliness of the fast fashion response in the store environment in relation to the generation of consumer demand through the media. The literature review explains the importance of the media in generating interest amongst consumers thereby creating demand for particular products and therefore, to provide a focus for the participant observation, four fast fashion garments were identified, each of which had been featured in the media (two fashion magazines, a television show and a tabloid newspaper) during the week of the research. The selection of garments is summarised in Table II. The participant observation was then carried out using a framework developed from the literature relating to the store environment, focusing on window display, layout, merchandising and signage, to evaluate how these particular garments, as well as the more general fast fashion “message”, were supported and featured in-store. Each of the stores in Table II were visited for the participant observation to find the item

Fast fashion

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identified in the media for sale in the store, as well as recording aspects of the retail environment identified as being pertinent to translating and communicating the fast fashion proposition. During the same period, interviews were carried out with a total of ten store managers from each of the four retailers in three locations (Leeds, Manchester and Trafford centre branches). The interview questions were derived from the literature and focused on the store managers’ understanding of fast fashion garments, specifically the garments in question and their insight into how the store environment is managed with regard to fast fashion merchandise. Each interview was recorded and transcribed for data analysis. The data from the participant observations and the interviews were analysed using the categorisation approach derived from the theoretical framework, identified from the literature, and also from the data itself (Saunders et al. , 2007). Key themes emerging from the data were identified and analysis of the data was carried out by organising it according to the key themes (Miles and Huberman, 1994).

Results The fast fashion retail environment Fast fashion . The store managers had a good understanding of the notion of fast fashion in relation to merchandise being delivered frequently to store and the changes in consumer demand for more frequent and celebrity driven purchases. They typically quoted frequent deliveries of two to three drops of new merchandise each week. However, despite the speed of the supply chain getting new merchandise to the store quickly, store managers reported difficulties getting the new “fast fashion” merchandise onto the shop floor because of the high frequency of deliveries and the volume of merchandise:

We get so much stuff delivered all the time and we just don’t have time to manage getting it onto the shop floor quickly. We usually start with the stuff that is shop floor ready and doesn’t need unpacking (Store Manager D).

This indicates that the strategic imperative of developing fast fashion ranges is not being translated in the store environment because operationally the stores cannot cope. A lack of communication means that stores are functioning without the necessary tools and knowledge to maintain fast fashion credibility in the retail environment:

We don’t get to know what has been featured in the press until the customers come in asking for it (Store Manager F).

Garment

Media feature

Retailer

Red gingham shorts The Sun newspaper – article about the latest must

Top shop

have shorts Pussy bow sequin cardigan This morning (ITV TV show) – feature about look” Dorothy Perkins celebrity looks “How to achieve a Cheryl Cole

Table II.

Leopard print top Heat magazine – celebrity “Steal her style” featuring

Miss Selfridge

Summary of fast fashion garments used for the participant observation

Holly Willoughby Tartan dress Grazia magazine – latest key trends with feature garments representing the trend

Oasis

In our store we keep a fast fashion record of items that have been featured in the press but I don’t think all our branches do that (Store Manager D).

We depend on the enthusiasm of individual staff. Some of my team will scan the magazines to see what is has been featured (Store Manager J).

It’s frustrating because we get loads of customers coming in saying they’ve seen something in

a

magazine or on TV but most of the time we don’t know which garment it is or we don’t have

it

in stock (Store Manager B).

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The participant observations reflected this theme as when asked about the garments identified in Table II, the sales staff in all the stores had very poor knowledge of the featured garments. Fast fashion is happening at such a pace that the message is coming from consumers rather than head office. This is contrary to accepted wisdom of the marketing concept. Window display . Results from the observations and interviews have confirmed that window displays fail to reflect the fast fashion concept. The observations identified that none of the stores had included any of the garments form the media in their window displays. The interviews suggest this is due to the centralised structure of most high street retailers. This hierarchical structure means there is little flexibility for stores to react to the local changes in consumer demand driven by fast fashion:

The design of the window is managed by Head Office but they don’t always understand what the customers up here want. I think customers in Manchester are really driven by celebrity trends which may not be the same as customers in London (Store Manager A).

It takes us so long to change the window display we just don’t have enough staff to keep it up

to date all the time (Store Manager E).

The constraints of a centralised structure mean that the window display which, as discussed in the literature, is the key mode of communicating the fashion message to the target consumer, is missing a key opportunity to promote the fast fashion concept. Given that fast fashion is largely driven by consumer demand for celebrity inspired styles, catwalk trends and the need for newness communicated by the media, the window display as a key aspect of communication in the retail environment needs to be fully responsive to local consumer demand. Managers recognise the importance of the store window display in offering an opportunity for communication of fast fashion. However, as one commented:

We see some pieces in the press but they never materialise into complete ranges or the item is never delivered to the store (Store Manager C).

This highlights the problem of the unpredictable nature of fast fashion and the supply chain disrupting the coordinated communication agenda. Store size and location can also affect what can be included in the window display:

Some garments are only available in certain stores so our Trafford Centre store probably gets the most high profile or newest ranges first (Store Manager E).

The window display would appear to be strategically manipulated as a communication tool for core fashion stories rather than high demand fast fashion pieces. The speed with which fast fashion is developed and delivered means that the stores simply do not have the resources to update the window display accordingly. Furthermore, volatile consumer

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demand for fast fashion as well as the unpredictable nature of the supply chain, whereby stores cannot be sure of what will be delivered and when, means they therefore rely on the planned core fashion stories used in the window display. Display and layout . Display features of the store were identified in the interviews as being key to communicating fast fashion in-store due to the flexibility for change offered by moveable and changeable displays:

We change round the displays and layouts quite frequently as it can be done much faster than the window (Store Manager G).

The design of a lot of our stores in shopping malls means that our entrance is very open so it is like a window anyway (Store Manager C).

One of the most interesting findings of the research was the way in which the garments identified as being “fast fashion” garments were being used through the store, not only in the high profile front third of the store. The observations show that typically, the fast fashion garment represents the fashion story by providing a visual cue to the consumer because of its design and style and may be accompanied by further fast fashion items in the range. However, in analysing the range of merchandise in these fashion stories, what became clear was that a large proportion of the merchandise was not fashion forward but consisted of staple or core items. What can be concluded is that by creating fashion stories, the retailer makes a trend more accessible to the consumer as they can easily identify the on-trend look they might have seen in a magazine. The fast fashion pieces that form part of this story are those which have been identified in the media and have the newness, high fashion or strong appeal and are representative of the fashion message and therefore “stand out” as being the “champion” or “hero” of the story. In analysing the hero pieces, it was recognised that they might be considered too fashion forward for a typical high street consumer, indeed the observations showed many of these highly fashioned items had been reduced, but they play a key part in drawing the consumer to the fashion story and enabling them to buy into the fashion story by purchasing the more wearable items that form part of the story. The hero pieces, both in the media and in the retail environment, convey an overall message of “fashionability” helping aid consumer decision making by reducing uncertainty in the fashion purchase. Furthermore, the hero pieces were being used to draw the consumer through the store which drives footfall into areas of the store which would typically be quieter. Hero pieces are therefore used in fast fashion merchandising as a way of expressing the fast fashion message in the store environment, as well as driving footfall and sales in the categories for which they are heroes. However, lack of availability and understanding of the hero concept at store level inhibits their potential for exposure. In the retail environment, the data show that these fast fashion pieces are not well identified or highlighted and therefore lose their power as attractor and communicator hero pieces. When media attention is brought to the hero pieces participant observation data shows us that the lack of availability and poor positioning in store, can lead to consumer dissatisfaction. Sales staff in the store lacked knowledge about the items and could not identify their location in the store. Signage. Despite signage being an under researched area it would appear that visual cues alone cannot be relied upon to communicate the fast fashion message. Therefore, the observations found a variety of phrases that have been developed within the retail

environment of fast fashion stores which give the consumers a sense of urgency, immediacy and exclusivity – all representative of the fast fashion concept. The observations found that the signage was utilised most with the “hero” of the fashion

story which were typically supported in store with this fast fashion signage such as “get

it before it goes” or “featured in Grazia”, “as seen in Glamour”, etc. which again supports

the fast fashion message and aids the consumer in buying into the look by making it more accessible. In this way, signage is used as the silent salesperson guiding and reinforcing the purchase decision. The observations found signage used as a method of guiding consumers towards hero pieces. Having guided the consumer to the hero piece, the signage reinforces and explains the fashion story and its fashion credentials. This gives the consumer the confidence to buy into a particular fashion story at whatever level is appropriate to their fashion innovativeness.

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Conclusion An evaluation of the literature related to fast fashion found it grounded within the supply chain management research area. Indeed, supply chain management provided the impetus for the creation of fast fashion. This paper now addresses fast fashion at the supply chain-customer interface and contributes to the study of fast fashion in a marketing communications context, which to date has not been explored in any detail. The findings of this research suggest that the retail environment is not responsive enough in the fast fashion era. The combination of rigid centralised control and lack of resource at store level, results in the retail environment being ineffective in the execution of the fast fashion strategy at the point of sale. The communication of fast fashion is somewhat better through the use of fashion stories and “hero” pieces and signage. This research presents evidence that due to the nature of centralised retail operational approaches to store environment presentation, fast fashion requires a more flexible approach and may give an individuality to stores which has been a recent criticism of the UK high street. Fast fashion is identified in the literature as being a strategy that is responsive to consumer demand and the translation of fast fashion in the retail environment requires the flexibility to respond to changing consumer demand on

a more local basis. This research has also developed the notion of the “hero piece”. Hero pieces work within the retail environment to identify and communicate fast fashion pieces to the consumer thereby signifying newness, fashionability and aiding in purchasing decisions at different levels of innovativeness. The findings of this research demonstrate the impact of fast fashion in the retail environment, where consumers make that all important purchase decision. If operations in the retail environment cannot match or exceed consumer expectations, all the speed of the supply chain will be lost. In the current economic climate commentators are speculating about not only the future for fast fashion but any type of fashion, however, many of the consumers of fast fashion are used to their demand for newness being satisfied and it is unlikely that this will change. Indeed, recent financial results from New Look, ASOS and Primark, indicate that fast fashion remains a key success factor in fashion retail. Fast fashion has become a mainstream strategy of fashion retailers in the UK, therefore the competitive advantage previously enjoyed by fast fashion pioneers such as Zara has been lost as

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emphasis has been placed on developing efficiency and flexibility in supply chains. Successful supply chain strategies have delivered a fast fashion concept, which most UK fashion retailers have embraced. Now, the findings of this research suggest that emphasis must shift from the supply chain to other business operations to develop core competency or competitive advantage in an increasingly tough trading environment. In the case of this research, the findings suggest that the retail environment must build in those aspects of flexibility and efficiency to remain responsive to demand – the concept at the heart of fast fashion. Therefore, the challenge for fashion retailers is how to bridge the gap between improved supply chain efficiencies and an unresponsive inflexible retail environment. The move to a more responsive retail environment, represents a shift from invisible supply chain initiatives to a more visible representation of fast fashion.

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About the authors Liz Barnes is a Lecturer in Product Development at the University of Manchester with expertise in the field of design management and fashion marketing. Most recently, her research interests have focused on the concept of “fast fashion” in relation to supply chain management, fashion promotion and the fashion retail environment. She was a Guest Editor of a “fast fashion” special edition of the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management and is also on the Editorial Advisory Board of this journal. Liz Barnes is a Programme Director for the BSc (Hons) Management & Marketing of Textiles programme and lectures in fashion marketing, fashion merchandising, fashion promotion and product management as well as supervising at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Liz Barnes is the author of a key text book Understanding Fashion Marketing due for publication in 2010 as part of the Understanding Fashion Series published by Berg. A UMIST graduate in BSc (Hons) Management & Marketing of Textiles, Liz Barnes then undertook a PhD in design management, graduating from the University of Manchester. After completing her PhD, she spent some time working in the fashion and retail industry before returning to academia. Liz Barnes has held a number of senior posts at higher education institutions in the UK. She holds a PGCE in Higher Education from Manchester Metropolitan University and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and an Associate of the Textile Institute. Liz Barnes’ current research projects are the impact of fast fashion on sustainable sourcing; fast fashion and the retail environment; fast fashion and supply chain management; categorising fashion consumers in terms of innovativeness; and fashion marketing. Liz Barnes is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: liz.barnes@manchester.ac.uk Gaynor Lea-Greenwood is a Senior Lecturer in Fashion Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University, having held a number of senior positions for a leading UK fashion brand. Gaynor Lea-Greenwood has undertaken a number of research interests during her academic career. Most recently, her research interests have focused on the concept of “fast fashion” in relation to supply chain management, fashion promotion and the fashion retail environment. She was a Guest Editor of a “fast fashion” special edition of the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management and is also an Assistant Editor of the journal. Gaynor Lea-Greenwood lectures in international fashion marketing and creative fashion marketing at undergraduate as well as postgraduate level and supervises PhD students. Gaynor Lea-Greenwood is the author of a key text book FashionMarketing Communications due for publication in 2011. Gaynor Lea-Greenwood is a regular contributor at international conferences, media debates and external validations.

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