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Consumer-driven re-engineering of the distribution network in the apparel industry


Apparel Industry in Europe employed about 2 million people in 1993 in the design and manufacturing of apparels (i.e. garments, clothing and clothing accessories). Starting from the late '80s, and particularly in the last few years, major changes in the market (which is shrinking), in the social context (consumers' purchase attitudes, behaviors, tastes etc. tend to change very quickly following the fast changes in the models proposed by mass-media) and in the economic scenario are forcing the Apparel Industry to critically revise its main beliefs and competitive strategies. Traditional approaches to reduce product costs (and, thus, increase profits) through reduction of production costs are today no longer as effective as in the past. The question is: where else to intervene to reduce product costs and to improve responsiveness to customers ?

A survey recently conducted by Kurt Salmon Associates, a major management consulting firm, has revealed that inefficiencies in the distribution network in the Apparel Industry may accounts for up to 55% of the total products costs, from the end-consumer viewpoint, while at the same time severely hampering the responsiveness of the total system. The fragmentation of the logistic chain into a very large number of actors (Points of Sales, Sales Agents, Distributors), as well as the experience from other Industrial Sectors, such as Food and Grocery, which shows a similar market structure, suggests that an higher degree of integration along this chain may lead to enormous benefits for all the involved actors.

The CODE Pilot Project intends to transform the way in which the Apparel Industry manage the distribution network, moving from a sell-in driven strategy to a sell-out driven one.

In a sell-in driven scenario, apparel suppliers focus on selling to clients, that is to distributors and/or points of sale. The driving event which triggers the whole distribution network and, consequently, the production infrastructure, is the order issued by points of sale and/or distributors. In a sell-out driven scenario, apparel suppliers focus on selling to end-consumers. The driving event which triggers the distribution network becomes the sale to consumers. The concept of order issued by points of ale/distributors is replaced by the concept of replenishment and re-assortment proposal autonomously issued by the supplier itself and based upon its direct and real-time visibility of what is sold at each point of sale. The proposal itself triggers the production infrastructure, rather than the orders.

To achieve this, the Stock Replenishment and Re-assortment Process process within FASHION BOX, an Italian SME manufacturing and distributing worldwide high-profile informal clothing, is re-engineered, through a tighter integration of the various actors in the logistic chain, made possible by advanced Information and Communication Technologies. Increased efficiency of the stock replenishment and re-assortment process will bring benefits to all the actors: end-consumers, point of sale, distributors, sales agents and suppliers.

To achieve this goal, the CODE Pilot applies the ECR - Efficient Consumer Response strategy. ECR is an industry strategy which focuses on the efficiency of the total supply system, rather than on the efficiency of individual components, and allows to reduce the total system costs, lead-time, inventories, physical and financial assets, improving the consumers' choice of new, high-quality, low-cost products. The ultimate goal of ECR is a responsive consumer-driven system in which distributors and suppliers work together as business allies to maximize consumer satisfaction. ECR encompasses integrated interventions at the level of organizational structures, commercial policies, human resources and IT infrastructure.

The main business objectives FASHION BOX intends to achieve for itself and for the other actors in the distribution network are: to increase the level of end-consumer service; to increase the level of points of sale service; to increase the sales volumes ; to reduce the total inventory levels across the distribution network ; to reduce off-price end-of-seasons sales.

KURT SALMON ASSOCIATES (KSA), a leading management consulting firm specialized in ECR, and 2 leading system integrators, namely TXT Ingegneria Informatica and EPSILON Software, will support FASHION BOX and CORUS, its German distributor, in the CODE Pilot.

The EU market size and structure ensures wide exploitation of Project's results. Exploitation will be carried out internally to FASHION BOX, with a full commitment of the management of the Company, based upon clear business objectives and upon the significant benefits expected. Outside dissemination and exploitation, ensured by KSA, TXT and EPSILON, will lead in the longer term to marketable products.


Fashion Box
Via Enrico Mattei 30
31010 Maser (Tv)

Participants (3)

Epsilon Software S.A.
Syngrou Avenue 377
17564 Pal. Faliro
Kurt Salmon Associates
Rheindorfer Weg 3
40591 Dusseldorf
Via Frigia 27