The fashion month and trade show seasons might be over, but the impact of the coronavirus threat is just beginning for many brands and retailers who still need to complete orders for fall ’20.
With government bodies restricting travel and recommending social distancing, industry activity has become limited, and traditional showroom appointments, trade shows and collection previews are much riskier affairs.
But for many businesses, halting these practices altogether is disruptive — and costly. Young brands and smaller boutiques are particularly vulnerable, relying on these gatherings for the opportunity to promote their businesses on a larger stage. To combat the new challenges presented by the epidemic, a number of companies are, instead, turning towards digital alternatives to wholesale.
Virtual showrooms and technology-supported wholesale are not new concepts. Companies like Joor and NuOrder have been working to digitize the process for several years. But the immediate pressure for brands to adjust their practice has led to a surge in adoption of digital technologies.
Kristin Savilia, CEO at Joor, observed that a top priority for brands right now is ensuring business continuity. During Paris Fashion Week alone, the platform reported a growth of 2.5 times the usual increase in gross merchandise volume.
“What I’ve seen in the industry is a lot of focus on consumer-facing technology for retailers, and what largely got forgotten was our part of the supply chain, the B2B point,” said Savilia. “I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this is not a good event. But this, if anything, is a positive outcome of realizing how powerful digital can be and getting people focusing on this part of the supply chain that’s been starving for attention.”
Services like Joor and TradeGala, a new service that connects buyers and brands across the globe, enable brands to showcase digital versions of their product, which buyers can sort through using advanced search tools – without traveling farther afield. Immediate visibility over incoming orders and inventory also promotes more efficient order management.
TradeGala, in particular, targets newer brands and small-scale buyers that might not have the resources to participate in the traditional showroom model. “We don’t charge registration fees or monthly fees, so brands don’t pay anything until they start to make sales,” said Amber Domenech Patey, project manager at TradeGala. “There’s also no requirement to hold huge amounts of stock; many of our buyers are boutiques and independent retailers who are looking for new and exciting brands, so it’s easy to start small.”
At Joor, virtual showrooms are one feature of a broader wholesale ecosystem that includes pre- and post-order management tools, payment services and real-time reporting for sales forecasting. The newest feature launch is ORB360, in partnership with technology company Ordre, that provides a high-resolution, 360-degree digital image of each product for more accurate browsing.
The prohibitive circumstances created by the coronavirus epidemic have drawn greater attention to these tools. But the companies believe that their role in wholesale is likely to endure beyond the outbreak, once businesses experience the services firsthand. Additionally, as many companies look to monitor their environmental impact, these digital alternatives also offer a way to browse new collections that has a smaller carbon footprint.
“The current health crisis is a painful reminder that we sometimes need to adapt, however we believe in the importance of this digital movement far beyond a solution to the present issues that we face,” said Domenech Patey. “Wholesale fashion is behind the times. We have simply created the platform to make e-commerce as important a tool for wholesale fashion as it is for the retail industry.”
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