Lectra Conference Tackles Retail Industry Challenges

The footwear retail industry is moving at an unprecedented pace. From Amazon’s “in-car” delivery service to millennial and Generation Z’s changing shopping preferences, the landscape is facing new heights of competition. But with such obstacles come opportunities.

Fashion and footwear-focused technology firm Lectra addressed the shifts within the market and how businesses can best respond during its annual “Fashion Goes Digital” summit in Bordeaux, France. And organizers of the recently held event said it starts with a high-level view of the market that identifies industry challenges while offering solutions.

“This is a thought leadership event. It’s to talk about what is driving the fashion industry today,” said Céline Choussy-Bedouet, chief marketing and communications officer.

She explained that the event was positioned to identify challenges in retail and relevant solutions. Choussy-Bedouet pointed to central trends like digitization, on-demand fashion, customization and personalization as being at the heart of the conference.

Reflecting on the event, Choussy-Bedouet said, “[The presentations were] about the world [attendees] live in and the world they struggle with, because survival is really important in fashion.”

She explained that established businesses are closing, and new ones are failing at an alarming rate — shoe companies need to be properly equipped with tools to navigate the landscape. “There [are] a lot of things moving, and obviously, I think it was important for [attending customers and prospects] to feel like they are part of a community. So we’re trying to build this community,” said Choussy-Bedouet. “We’re trying to drive momentum in fashion.”

Topics covered during the conference ranged from how millennial consumer behavior is informing the shopping environment to the influence of augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence on retail.

But the presentations revealed that advanced technology isn’t the only factor causing drastic transformations for fashion and footwear retail. As highlighted in the discussion led by Nick Chiarelli of consumer trends research firm Foresight Factory, everything from climate change to economic uncertainty has altered trends in consumer behavior over recent years.

As one example, the case for sustainability is gaining momentum in the industry. Case in point: Fashion and design consultant Nora Kühner, another presenter at the summit, suggested that materials derived from coffee grounds, eucalyptus pulp, pineapple leaves and mushrooms have challenged the industry’s perceptions of standard materials.

What’s more, Stephen Taylor, principal director at retailer growth-focused Kurt Salmon (part of Accenture Strategy), discussed the concept of luxury and how it has evolved. Driven by changing dynamics such as fast fashion and the digital era, Taylor argued that speed — of delivery and other facets — is now perhaps the greatest luxury of all. Accordingly, footwear businesses that capitalize on customers’ desire for instant gratification may be the ones that will thrive.

Taylor noted that shoppers’ new desires — and consequently, expectations of brands and retailers — have spurred this change in the market. Businesses would thus be wise to adapt via reconfigured marketing strategy tactics and unique product offerings.

On that note, Lectra also used the event as a platform to reveal details about its latest innovations.

Laura Mylius-Prou, campaign manager for fashion and apparel, told FN that she is especially focused on the firm’s new “connected” solutions geared specifically to “power up” design and product development teams. “I think [they offer] something that’s really right on target with what the market needs today,” she said.

Mylius-Prou explained why these types of offerings are critical for businesses.

“What we’re trying to do is make things easier for companies that are working in this industry. It’s a tough industry. Everything is turning upside down right now,” she said. “Everybody’s trying to get their products out there, get them out there quicker and respond to what the consumers are asking for. And there’s a lot of competition. So they need real ways of addressing those core topics that are their daily problems.”

She explained that there’s more competition today than ever before. In turn, Mylius-Prou urged that it is especially important for businesses to concentrate on the fundamentals.

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