With the rise of so many digital native brands ditching traditional department stores, denim is one product category placating the move to direct-to-consumer by reworking a decades-old wholesale model through the aid of technology.
Speaking with WWD, Amy Williams, chief executive officer of Citizens of Humanity, one of the few vertically integrated denim production facilities in the U.S., as well as Agolde and Goldsign denims, some product verticals may be better poised to continue as they have always existed: wholesale.
WWD: What’s the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry for the year ahead?
Amy Williams: I think the biggest challenge is the overall global uncertainty and the challenges some of the largest retailers are facing looking to create strong engagement with their consumers.
We feel fortunate to work with some of the best merchants globally, and those that have a clear point of difference, who provide an edited and thoughtful experience to their customers and who offer an interesting brand proposition. So many retailers expanded beyond the number of doors they truly needed to serve their customer or began to rely on a heavy amount of promotional activity to drive traffic and that has not proven to be a beneficial long-term strategy.
WWD: With the rise of brands going direct-to-consumer, how does traditional wholesale and brick-and-mortar need to change or reinvent?
A.W.: Traditional wholesalers need to give serious thought to the long-term health of their brand and not grow and flood the market with more product than the customers are asking for at full price. They must work to create strong and clear messages to the consumer about their brands, product innovation and how to make shopping more compelling and easier for their customer.
WWD: How has NuOrder helped to transform wholesale business for Citizens of Humanity?
A.W.: As one of the first partners or brands using NuOrder, we wanted to close the gap between our customers/accounts and our product range, as we focus on both a strong replenishment model (and efficient stock turns) and bringing products to market quickly, based on our own vertical company manufacturing model.
It allowed us to be in constant and ongoing conversations with our retail partners with visual tools in front of them that allowed them to act quickly on reorders or trends. In addition, having “visual” references of our recommended buys and their assortments in an organized fashion allowed retailers to be more thoughtful with their overall merchandising point of view across brands. Finally, the retailers were able to see and act quickly on new trend items and not wait for market or trade shows.
WWD: Can you explain your investment in new talent? What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs?
A.W.: Over the last year, we have focused on building our design talent and building our Agolde team, both moving company talent to this division and hiring new team members. As we look to 2019, finding a strong leader for our direct-to-consumer business is a priority and building talents in digital marketing and the digital arena is key.