Last week, Fashion students at Nottingham Trent University attended a special knowledge workshop focused on inventory management within the fashion industry. Lead by Slimstock’s retail expert, Mike Donnelly, the goal of this event was to demonstrate how the industry has changed over the last 20 year’s and highlight why forward thinking retailers have recognised and embraced the need to place more focus on effective buying, allocation and replenishment.

Throughout his 20 years experience in Merchandising, from an entry level graduate to managing arguably the largest department in Ladies wear, Mike has seen first hand the extent to which the fashion industry has evolved both from a sourcing as well as technological perspective.

Based on this extensive understanding of the industry, Mike’s interactive workshop encouraged fashion students from Nottingham Trent University to think like fashion leaders, assume the role of buyers, merchandisers and technologists and make strategic decisions around their sourcing and inventory optimisation strategy.

The retail industry, arguably every industry, is today operating in a far more complex, uncertain and competitive arena, and while the need for robust commercial sourcing remains as important as ever, effective allocation and replenishment now plays a far more critical role in maximising profits – given the weak pound, reduced volumes (to negotiate prices on) and the drive to source as responsibly as possible – it is imperative that every single unit works as hard as possible.

To demonstrate how these three elements of the buying and merchandising process contribute to the profitability of a fashion business, Mike challenged the attendees to put their creative and commercial knowledge to the test to see who could build the most commercial range while always thinking back to who the customer is and how their different roles, while significantly overlapping, often have conflicting objectives and challenges – in as much as the aim was to mimic an actual sign off meeting, albeit on a much smaller scale – it was also a lot of fun.

As a result, I hope this event highlighted that yes, systems are important (and will only ever grow more so) however the key message to the attendees, the next generation of Buyers and Merchandisers will continue to be an integral part of any companies success…..retail is changing, retail is challenging…..retail is also incredibly rewarding….never be afraid of change or challenge.”

With over 80 attendees, the workshop was an overwhelming success. Mike goes on to add: “In fashion, supply chain teams can either get it very right or very wrong and while there are tools in place to support retailers, fashion will always be one of the most difficult areas when it comes to inventory planning.