Fruitless Sustainability in a Flooded Marketplace of Stuff

If we want to build a fashion industry that’s sustainably conscious, let’s start by producing a lot less goods. No amount of effort towards creating, sourcing, and using sustainable fabrics and production facilities will have a meaningful effect if the industry continues to over produce and retailers continue to overstock.

Sustainability + Overproduction Cannot Coexist

Think about these two things: First, the global garment industry produces more than 150 billion garments every year, yet there are roughly only 3 billion people who have the means to consume those goods. One billion people on the planet still have no access to drinkable water.

Second, most global brands and retailers carry more than 120 days of inventory in their stores, on their stockroom shelves, and in their warehouses. Meanwhile Walmart, which is about as big as all the other retailers combined, manages less than 45 days of inventory. The same is true of Amazon. Ford and GM keeps roughly 30 days worth of inventory.

Fashion should be a fast turning business. It currently turns about 2.7X a year. It should turn +6.0X a year. What would happen if the amount of inventory in stores and on-hand decreased from 120 days to less than 60? What would happen if the industry produced just 120 billion garments instead of well over 150 billion garments? You can be sure of these four things:

  1. Sales would improve
  2. Margins would expand
  3. Demand would increase
  4. Sustainability would be massively improved

Brands and retailers can do much, much more with far, far less. By aligning what is made with what can be consumed, the industry can make a giant dent towards sustainability. Plus the tremendously improved profits margins that will be gained can be put back into people, technology, and environments.

Merchandise Planning 101 is Fashion Industry Rule #1

If I were Dorthy and could click my heals together while saying “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home” in order to get home from a terrible and tumultuous journey, I would say the following rule is exactly that scenario for ails of the fashion industry today. Fashion continues to struggle. Stores are closing. Brands are collapsing. No one is winning. And there’s certainly no yellow brick road.

As someone who deeply understands the benefits of what the science of fashion can do when combined with the art of what fashion should be, I fully understand and appreciate the efforts of what a capable merchandise planning MINDSET can do to help the industry today.

I say mindset because it is exactly that. Merchandise planning isn’t a people or a team so much as the mindset of a brand that wishes to build raving fans and succeed at making great product that consumers love. Merchandise planning is a mindset that a fashion business has throughout its organization, which is promoted and driven by a team of people with skills and ideas as necessary as the smartest CEO, the most gifted designer, the sharpest marketer, and the most capable of capable of all the tremendously talented and dedicated people necessary to make this industry thrive.

There are roughly 5 rules that I believe every merchandise planning team needs to embrace in order to be fully enabled and articulate. Brands and retailers that enable these 5 key rules are always high performers and outpace the industry sizably. I can think of only a few brands and one retailer that has a decent portion of these 5 ideals enabled at this time.

I will discuss the other ideals on later posts, but this first rule is critical. A brand or retailer’s departure from it has everything to do with how healthy or unhealthy that business is. This rule is to the fashion industry what calories are to your health. And while your body and health may require a different amount of calories than does your neighbor’s, if you consume more calories than are needed you will gain weight; if you consume fewer calories than necessary you will lose weight.

This rule is about calorie consumption and the fashion industry is morbidly obese. H&M alone has billions worth of unsold inventory according to this NYT article. While I think the article misrepresents the amount of unsellable merchandise for H&M, my own analysis of the fashion industry finds that there is easily $16 billion in excess, unsellable, unnecessary, and dead inventory in the industry right now. In fact the global apparel industry produces more than 150 billion garments each year for a consuming public that equals roughly 3 billion people. Do that math. It does not work. I wrote about this in 2016 in my post titled Wholesale Isn’t Broken, Just Poorly Managed.

Clearly the fashion industry consumes more calories than can be digested. Getting this first rule instilled in your mindset to be a merchandise planning organization is ground-zero to your path towards building a better business that out-paces, out-performs, and out-lasts all others.

Rule #1: SALES + MARKDOWNS = RECEIPTS

This is a pretty straightforward and simple rule that every fashion business fails miserably. It is without a doubt the first thing I look at when advising a brand and retailer. This rule is the single most important concept any business can understand in order to improve business immediately and materially. It is at the core of a merchandise planning mindset.

Let’s be clear about two things here. Firstly, sales are only related to what consumers buy. This is a critical piece of the formula. If you are a wholesaler, these sales are in no way related to what you sell to a retail partner; those are called orders and they are recognized as receipts for the retailer and herein. Secondly, and most importantly, receipts are the value of the goods you deliver and make available for sale to your consumers at their full retail value (MSRP). Kapish? Sales are what consumers consumer and receipts are what you deliver and make available to be consumed.

The amount of goods you make available for consumption less the amount goods consumed reasonably thereafter will absolutely equal the value of the reductions you took to have those goods consumed. If you don’t clear them, they pile up. If they pile up, you don’t have that cash to use elsewhere. It’s like steaks in the fridge. You can buy 20 steaks to eat in one week, but you won’t. You can put some of those steaks in the freezer, but they won’t taste as good; some will be discarded in the trash six months from now when you clean out said freezer. As importantly if not more so, because you paid for all those steaks today, you may not be able to buy the milk you need tomorrow. (The author of this article would like to point out that he is vegan and that steaks are not in his fridge or freezer.)

A better way to think about Rule #1 is: RECEIPTS – SALES = MARKDOWNS!!

Now don’t be fooled into thinking that this rule doesn’t apply to your business. Don’t start to rationalize little head games to drives sales that cannot be delivered. The merchandise planning mindset knows that you can do much more with far less.

If you are a retailer, don’t think you can return these unsold goods back to your wholesale brand and be whole; you won’t. Your valuable store personnel will spend way too much time doing paperwork and packing boxes then engaging with consumers and building fans. Likewise, if you’re a vertical retailer without a wholesaler to fall back on, don’t think you can transfer these goods to your outlet stores and be cleared of them; you can’t and they won’t. That’s lazy and ignorant thinking that is absolutely at odds with a merchandise planning mindset. What goes into a location, should go out of a location.

If you are a wholesaler, don’t think you can drive more goods into your retail partner to place on top of a consumption path that does not exist. Gross sales do not equal net sales. If you have to give your retail partner an allowance, net sales shrink. If your retail partner catches a cold, you get pneumonia. Furthermore, if you’re a wholesaler, don’t think you can bring back things that didn’t sell-thru at your retail partner. You might think you can sell it in then bring it back; that’s asinine. Even if you can bring it back then sell it to an off-price retailer, that’s really stupid. You paid to ship the goods to your retail partner; you bring it back; restock it in the warehouse; sell it again to a discount retail partner; then ship it at a huge discount to that retailer, which only clears excess stuff you created and then ultimately destroys your brand’s reputation.

Be smart and embrace a business mindset and acumen that is founded in utilizing the ideals of merchandise planning properly. Nothing about the conditions above makes sense and none of it is part of a mindset conducive to being properly merchandise planned.

HIGH MARKDOWNS = LOW PERCEIVED VALUE TO THE CONSUMER

HIGH MARKDOWNS = LOW GROSS MARGIN

LOW GROSS MARGIN = POOR INVESTMENT IN PEOPLE, PRODUCTS, ENVIRONMENTS, AND TECHNOLOGY

ALL OF THE ABOVE CONDITIONS ARE UNSUSTAINABLE

SUSTAINABILITY AND OVERPRODUCTION CANNOT COEXIST

The question the fashion industry needs to ask itself is “who’s fooling who?” The best thing any brand or retailer in the fashion industry can do to improve business significantly is to find the proper level of sales that can be reasonably generated without excessive markdowns and then set in stone the right amount of receipts necessary to drive those sales. This is your merchandise planner’s expertise. Use it judiciously.  

A Merchandise Planner is the fashion industry’s critical component in seeking clarity to an incredibly complex industry. Your brand has a lot of competition. Consumers have a lot of choices and other ways to spend their money. Fashion is a highly complex business. Your brand has to have a good assortment of goods available in a broad range of styles and colors, bought in many sizes, distributed with pin-point accuracy to many, many doors or locations, and flowed at times most conducive to generating sales to consumers who have many, many, many choices and opportunities to do otherwise.

Do much more with far less and incorporate a mindset that enables, encourages, and is conducive to your merchandise planning team members. Share your thoughts. If you have ideas, let’s hear them. If you know someone who could benefit from these discussions, send them this article and ask them to join the discussion. Likewise, if you find benefit from these posts, be sure to follow this blog.

What is Merchandise Planning

Merchandise planning has been a tool and resource for the fashion industry for many years. It was developed out of the need for wholesale brands to be able to the speak department store language, and for both of those parties to focus as much on the science of the business as much the art of the product. The idea was that if both wholesaler and retailer could begin to talk the same language of sales, markdowns, receipts, and turn; both could flourish from speaking about sell-thru instead of sell-in.

Essentially we wanted to turn the process of buyers buying and sellers selling inside out. Prior to merchandise planning, buyers from department stores would go to a brand or manufacturer’s showroom to look at product and buy it as they saw it. Buyers didn’t necessarily know if they’d spend $1 or $1 million until they saw the product. Sellers only knew they had to sell as much as possible so they could buy a new car. Merchandise planning, on the other hand, was created to determine the ideal flow and placement of products by month and store so we could deliver sales growth with minimal markdowns and promotions that erode gross margins. Instead of buyers going to market and writing orders later, orders were planned before going to market and completed therein. Science was matched with art.

Strong merchandise planning was behind the rise of the biggest, strongest, and most profitable brands since the 1990’s. Poor merchandise planning is behind much of the weak conditions in the fashion industry today.

Shifting consumer habits and fashion trends have been an issue for 1000’s of years. Consumers today have more choices and places to buy goods than ever. We don’t have to travel to malls or stores to get what we want. We have tools and technologies that show us whats in and what’s out quicker than ever. And consumers also have other priorities by which to spend their money. So what? These are exactly the things that “merchandise planning” seeks to solve for–and it absolutely does not involve a crystal ball. Good merchandise planning starts with producing the right amount of goods according to the appropriate amount of sales possible. 

Technology is a remarkable thing; minutia is a terrible thing. At a time when we have more information and knowledge available to us at our finger tips than at anytime other time during our existence as humans on this planet, the fashion industry is going backwards instead of forwards. The single best question the fashion industry can ask itself is what is merchandise planning and how can we enable it so our businesses can thrive again? Designers should design, marketers should market, CEO’s should plan. Most brands and retailers have a process or team of merchandise planners in place. None are using it properly.

So what is Merchandise Planning?

Merchandise planning is the effort to optimally plan the amount and placement of product so it is prepared to generate the highest level of full-priced sales possible. Strong merchandise planning ensures that a brand’s assortment and sensibility is fully realized everywhere a fan or consumer of the products may find those goods. It places products into channels, doors, and locations so they sell-thru quickly; with few markdowns and promotions, and without the need to redistribute those goods elsewhere at a later date. What goes in, goes through quickly.

Products are awesome when they sell-thru. They’re “off-trend” when they don’t. Both of those functions are the result of the amount and placement of products more so than the product itself. Good merchandise planning seeks to find and forecast “real” sales potential and then matches, as close as possible, the amount of goods necessary to generate those sales at full-price by style, size, door, and location at the right time. Inventory is expensive when it has to be marked down; it’s a calamity when it’s stored forever, and it’s a shame when it’s redistributed.

Here’s what merchandise planning is not: merchandise planning is not a sales assistant; it’s not a buyer’s assistant. Merchandise planning doesn’t report to sales, nor does it report to buyers. It also doesn’t report to finance or merchandising. Merchandise planning is just merchandise planning. It’s as important as a sales team; as critical as a buying team, and as vital as any design and merchandising team. Merchandise planning drives net sales and gross margins.

Merchandise planning orchestrates How Much, When, and Where. If sales are strong and gross margins are high, it’s because of solid merchandise planning. If sales are weak and gross margins are stunted, it’s because of poor merchandise planning. If inventory turns quickly, it’s because of thoughtful merchandise planning. If inventory turns slowly, it’s because of careless merchandise planning. If you are delivering the products today that consumers want tomorrow, it’s because of an aware merchandise planner. If you are delivering products today that consumers likely won’t buy until next month or thereafter, it’s because merchandise planning has not be enabled.

Merchandise planning seeks to simplify. It doesn’t look to complicate. Merchandise planning uses history to inform and foresight to drive. Most importantly merchandise planning isn’t a “people”. It’s not a “technology”. Merchandise planning is a MINDSET. It gets the right goods in the right locations at the right time.

So how do you know if a brand or retailer has enabled strong merchandise planning? It’s really quite simple; sales would be strong, gross margins would be high, inventory would turn fast, and fans would be raving.

Fashion brands need to embrace Amazon’s technologies to survive

darwinHistory is a complicated thing. We all like to think we learn from history. It’s often said that history repeats itself. We should be able to learn from our mistakes, and if we understand what happened in the past, we can make the future better. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. History doesn’t exist to offer us any clues into the future. Just because one thing happened, and another did not, that doesn’t mean we are better off because of what did happen. This is a good thing to contemplate, because all of us use history to try find comfort or reason in what we’re doing or thinking about today. Our failsafe is our experience–when in doubt, just look to the past. And if we want further validation about what we’re doing, we typically look to history over a longer period of time even though there is great risk in assuming that what happened previously may happen ever again. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “no man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” As humans we adapt and change constantly in an environment that does likewise. The only thing we know about history is that it has little bearing on what will happen in the future.

Yet if we do look at the advancement of humans, one thing is apparent, its the creation and implementation of technology that propels us forward. I’m not talking about technology in terms of wires and electronics necessarily, but rather technology in the sense of finding ways to do things more efficiently and for the “betterment” of ourselves and hopefully the planet. The wheel was a technology. Fire was a technology. Tools were technologies. Railroads and steam engines were technologies, as was electricity and now genetics. Humans that didn’t embrace fire or implement tools didn’t likely advance and survive as those who did embrace those tools. Countries that embraced railroads and steam engines during the Industrial Age when they were relatively new are more advanced today than those that did not. Likewise we all understand the gap between those who have embraced digital technologies and those who have not. It’s hard to imagine having to call a friend on “telephone” thats not in our pocket. It wasn’t too long ago that we would get phone calls and have no idea who was calling! Today we text, Instagram, Snap, and Tweet.

The point is that we advance when we embrace technology in whatever form that technology may be. It is with this understanding and knowledge that I say to the fashion industry in particular, since it is my focus, that it is struggling desperately because it is not embracing technology. The fashion industry cannot apply methods and ideas in today’s consumer marketplace with outdated technologies. The Soviet Union was one of the first countries to adopt railroads and steam engines because the founding fathers of communism saw that having the ability to move massive amounts of food, fuel, and other resources throughout the nation would be vital in its ability to advance its cause and provide for all people regardless of means. For many years the Soviet Union thrived because it implemented those technologies and was able to provide resources throughout a vast network that satisfied massive amounts of people. Yet many scholars today will tell you that the key reason the Soviet Union failed was because later stage leaders, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, failed to adopt new technologies and tried to lead the country with the same railroads and steam engines adopted decades earlier. It didn’t work. People couldn’t get food and resources. The system broke and the Soviet Union failed because it didn’t embrace new technologies that could have advanced its efforts further and met the needs of its people.

Perhaps one of the chief reasons for the success we have in the U.S. and other countries like Israel and the U.K. is our investment in technologies. Investment means that one makes available resources to enable something that we think will have the potential to make future lives better. Those resources include many things, but particularly time, money, people, and thought. There’s been several articles in Forbes and elsewhere from “futurists” in the fashion industry that talk about how e-commerce really isn’t working because it continues to lose money. While many startups don’t make money and often fail, it is a highly flawed argument to say that we should not go forward because the trail is too dark. Investment in technology propels us forward. Without investment and the advancement of technology, growth stalls and economies collapse. Saying that e-commerce isn’t working and stores are still the future is an argument not grounded in much foresight, and certainly not formed from a base of knowledge in what technology is or investment means.

Amazon is not the future because it is here, and it works extremely well. Saying something is coming in the future means it either does not yet exist or it has much refinement to be had. We could say that 3D printing is the future because a lot of kinks have to be worked out. Biogenetics is the future because we’ve only just begun to understand its potential. Travel to Mars and hyperloop transportation might be in the future because, well those concepts are just artistic renderings at this point. Amazon exists and works great. It’s pretty flawless. We can click a few button and like magic whatever we want, we can have delivered to us in almost no time at all.

I recently purchased a few items from Amazon Prime on a Sunday morning that was delivered to me that evening. I had assumed the items were in a local distribution center someplace here in or around New York City where I live. How else would Amazon get a purchase to me on a Sunday? Yet when the package arrived, I looked and saw that it was shipped from Lexington, KY. I placed my order around 10:00 in the morning; it was picked, packed, and shipped from Lexington, KY (which is 587 miles away from my apartment); then put on a plane and delivered to me by courier before I ate dinner with my family at 7:30 that evening. Want to know what I bought? Two bottles of Windex and a book! I could have walked 250 feet up the street to my local pharmacy for the windex and a comfortable mile to the book store nearby. But why? First of all my local pharmacy, like many around the country, always has 5 people in the store and 10 people in line. I don’t like that. There’s nothing worse than wasting our time standing in a line for something that should be pretty simple to do. Instead I spent my day by doing the things I enjoy. I worked out, enjoyed the day, and most importantly spent quality time with my wife and daughter. Amazon probably didn’t make much or any money. That’s irrelevant. They invested in technology and innovation that made my life better. Over time they will change millions and millions of more people’s lives and do that for products well beyond windex.

Isn’t this what technology and investment is all about? Shouldn’t a company, it’s CEO and Board of Directors, have the foresight to see what is happening around them and make sure investments are made in the right technologies? It’s a poor argument for out-of-touch brands and retailers to say that we should waste our time so they can try to earn money with inefficient and ineffective business models. If my local pharmacy had had a better process in place so that I could effortlessly get what I wanted, at a fair value and without having to stand in line, then I may have just gone there and made my purchase. Instead the process was pay more money, stand in line, and waste your day. We live in a humanist decade. It’s not up to companies to decide how we should spend our time or consume its products. It’s up to companies to figure out, through technologies, how to make our lives better and more engaging. The fashion industry needs to consider that what many are trying to impose upon modern consumers today is the opposite. Consumers have moved on from touch and feel, to want and have.

Amazon doesn’t throw off profits to shareholders because its CEO, Jeff Bezos, understands that in order to advance, the company absolutely must invest in and continue to develop technologies. Almost every brand and retailer in the fashion industry today is looking to find itself with the same fate as the Soviet Union because few are embracing technology. Many fashion industry CEO’s fail to see that the technology they need is staring them in the face. It’s called Amazon. Don’t try to create it, combat it, or prevent it. Use it. A lot of CEO’s continue to “strategically” review options to protect themselves from Amazon and consumers who want to just click. Good luck with that. Without a doubt, brands that embrace technology will advance while those that do not will falter and fail. Let’s also be clear about what technology means here as well. Gimmicks are not technologies. Fun little marketing tools are often short lived and poor investments. The truth is there’s little more reason for us to go into a department store today than there is to take a train from New York to Ohio. If it’s the only choice we have, then great. But there are so many other better choices to get from New York to Cleveland than by train. If it were a bullet train, then that might be another good option. The reality is that taking an often run-down train for a 14 hour ride to save a very little bit of money really makes no sense. The concept of “stores” in the fashion industry is the equivalent. If you want to have a store, great. But don’t use technological gimmicks to entice sophisticated humans. Make your store experience comparable to a bullet train. It’s the investment in technology that gets you someplace with ease and satisfaction.

Let me be clear, I don’t work for Amazon, and I’m not plugging its platform for any reason other than I see its impact on an industry I enjoy. I have always been advanced and entrenched in technologies. When I was a child I had the newest fishing rods and reels. I didn’t catch any damn fish, but that’s besides the point. I was an early adopter of the palm pilot. I’ve been on a Mac forever, and we have an Echo Dot in our apartment. I research and embrace advanced workout techniques and nutritional programs. I also use new shampoos that magically make my hair less grey (they work!). Suffice it to say I appreciate technologies that make my life better. Why not? Life is to be enjoyed. Technologies, whether they be fire, wheel, or Google, allow me to grow, do things faster, learn more deeply, and enjoy the people around me deeply and more frequently.

We have to see the forest for the trees, and Amazon is likely but a tree–its not the forest. There are new technologies well on their way that go well beyond Amazon. The brilliant thing about this is that Amazon is likely nurturing a big part of this new forest with it’s AI called Alexa. With artificial intelligence like Alexa, or Siri and Ok Google, we don’t have to keyword search for what we want, we only have to ask. Having the ability to ask an AI to obtain whatever product or information we want is a vast forest quickly growing. So while the fashion industry continues to ponder over products and massively overproducing and distributing its wares, there’s a new forest growing that will completely overwhelm all of the industry’s old technology–including its people, products, and stores. If the fashion industry doesn’t begin to embrace technology like Amazon and its potential now, much of it, including most of its designers and retailers, will become the equivalent of a steam train. This isn’t because of Amazon. It’s not because e-commerce companies don’t make money. It’s not because consumers are fickle. And it’s certainly is not because the weather hasn’t been cooperating with retailers. It’s because fashion industry CEO’s, boards of directors, and other stakeholders charged with growth and innovation are not recognizing the appropriate technologies that are critically needed to advance their businesses.

So ok great, should we expect the entire industry to jump on this and get on the wagon towards advancement? Absolutely not. In addition to knowing that those who have embraced the wheel and fire likely lived better, survived and advanced quicker than those who did not, we also know that it has always been the findings or work of a very few that has advanced the masses. The question is are you working for or part of the few? If you look to your left, and then to your right, you won’t see the person who will likely lead an advancement. It’s probably not your CEO. Most CEO’s work to inspire and encourage, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet that does not by default enable or motivate an action to find and implement technologies that will advance a business. The question really becomes, are you and the people around you thinking forward, stuck in the past, or just enjoying the present? Hopefully there’s a good balance.

So where do we hope to find this agent of change, this person to guide us or product to prepare us? Where do we find these people that have a sensitivity to things happening all around us so we can embrace tools that might help us advance? That’s a difficult question to answer and likely a more difficult person to find. Old farmers used to say that the more brilliant the goat, the more disruptive it is. Hence most farmers over the many centuries have looked to rid their pastures of the brilliant goats so the rest complied. Be brilliant. We all have the profound capacity to think and do. That’s what makes us human. Perhaps therefore, it starts with all of us from a abundance of listening, a curiosity for learning, and a respect for disruptiveness. If we listen, we learn. If we’re curious, we gain. If we’re disruptive, we advance.

The fashion industry has tremendous opportunity to advance with modern technologies. Start by asking if your product is a recognized and searchable item. Does your brand have searchable clout? Until recently, the algorithm for a fashion consumer purchase started with the brand or designer followed by marketing, promotion, item, then store. The point is you created a product to make a brand that people sought out and went to stores to purchase. It has quickly shifted to item or need first, followed by ease of consumption second, and brand or designer third. That’s a much different path to purchase. Think about it for a moment. Algorithms are essentially recipes. Start with this, add that, stir together, bake till done. What used to be done in a physical world, can now be done in a digital world. To succeed, we need to think in digital terms. The industry is no longer as simple as build stores, promote a lifestyle, dress the windows, then ring the cash register. The recipes are different and much more non linear. There’s a different path towards consumption and fighting against something that has become essentially a new humanist path is not a plausible endeavor. Understanding how that consumer path has evolved is a much better way towards happiness and success for all stakeholders.

A key to understanding this path is recognizing that consumers no longer wish to be viewed as consumers, but rather as humans. We don’t want to be sold to. As humans we recognized that we have minds and we live in a world today that is largely free from famine, plague, and war. We have evolved to think more about experiences and wants than fears and needs. Push marketing doesn’t work today. The idea that a few people can design and develop a product then tell you though marketing that you have to have it and that you need to come to their stores to get it, is quickly becoming an extremely foreign concept recognizable only by those who remember the rotary phone or prefer travel by train as opposed to plane. Google has made keyword search a humanist path. From it and because of it, we can get whatever we want, whenever we want it, from Amazon. That puts a tremendous amount of power and potential on pull marketing. Brands need to have searchable clout. Businesses like Levi Strauss should be using its power of searchable recognition to let consumer find and obtain what they want–on Amazon. Jeans = Levi’s. Yoga = Lulu. Running = Nike and so on. Keep in mind that search technology has advanced tremendously. Google is seeing its keyword search expand from one or two words into complete sentences at this point. That means people aren’t searching “jeans”. They’re doing keyword search using complex terminology and the technology understands it. I just did a keyword search for “what’s the proper way to use perhaps therefore” and got a direct source to set me straight (let’s see if you find its use herein). Brands ought to be thinking in terms of searchable recognition. It’s what we do and how we source what we seek. Very soon, and almost certainly within the next decade, consumers will ask artificial intelligence sources for the vast majority of their purchases. Don’t fight it, be there. Invest in it and embrace it.

Here’s how brands need to think about embracing Amazon since it’s a technology they should all be embracing. Start with keyword search. Is your brand or product recognizable enough to be a keyword search. You have to have search clout. In the best case scenario you’re a brand like Levi Strauss. Want a new pair of jeans? Keyword search jeans or levis or 501, and you’re going to get awfully close to what you want very quickly without leaving your home or office. Levi’s has a decent presence on Amazon and if they were to keep the assortments focused around what are likely high frequency searches for its core products, they’d likely being doing very well and managing their inventories really well.

Fashion industry CEO’s, boards of directors, employees, and other stakeholders have to ask themselves how they can become successful with Amazon, not how to prevent it. Amazon is not the future, it’s the present.