The evolution of chained apparel retail in the 21st century can be grouped into four broad stages, each iteration displaying tangible progress from the last.
The majority of chained apparel retailers still rely on low-cost Asian manufacturing, but suffer a lack of agility as a result. Inditex’s ‘fast fashion’ model managed to successfully collapse lead times, responding much faster to consumer demand and thus avoiding the pitfalls of fashion risk and excessive markdowns. The rise of e-commerce, however, and social media marketing, has enabled the development of digitally-led apparel retail models which present a threat to Inditex in their ability to respond even more quickly to consumer trends, with near-limitless assortments.
Eventually, the addition of data-led personalisation and sophisticated new forms of automated manufacturing will lead to the creation of enhanced, personally tailored, e-commerce-led apparel retail which will prioritise customisation over the following of fashion.