New Year’s resolutions for your apparel business: 5 tips to thrive in 2022

January 3, 2022
Kaily Hirsch

Congratulations! You just made it through your busiest time of the year. You’ve also survived two of the most difficult retail years in recent history. While there is still a lot of uncertainty in the year ahead, 2022 is expected to see an increase in apparel purchases - both in person and online. As people return back to work and school and some semblance of normal life, that means they will finally be changing out of their stretchy pants.

But, that doesn’t mean that it’ll be business as usual for apparel brands. Many titans of the industry went bankrupt or had to seriously scale back over the past two years. Neiman Marcus, ALDO, and Le Chateau are just some of the retailers who fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic woes. In order to survive the uncertainty ahead, apparel companies will need to take a strategic course of action. They need to make smart decisions that focus on gaining flexibility and adaptability so they can keep up with the rapid changes and fluxes that we are sure to see in 2022 and beyond. With that in mind, here are five tips for apparel companies to survive and thrive in the coming year! 

#1 Use returns to your advantage

After the holiday rush, you will likely be processing more returns than usual. Handling returns, refunds, and exchanges is a tedious task and it's hard to see it as anything more than wasted manpower and money. But it’s time to look at the silver lining of returns - the valuable data you’ll collect!  You can use return data to pinpoint flaws within your business and then use that information to tackle inefficiencies. 

Getting refund requests from shoppers who feel orders were shipped too slowly? Time to re-evaluate your shipping and order management. Noticing the same item being returned over and over again with complaints about the quality? Re-evaluate where you are sourcing it from or how you manufacture it. Not only will better understanding returns make your internal processes better, but having a fast, efficient, and simple returns process will increase customer satisfaction and encourage shoppers to buy from you again. When you use the returns process to your advantage with a comprehensive reporting function, you’ll be able to see and evaluate why customers don’t keep products and make returns work for you. 

#2 Refine your ecommerce game

If you aren’t already selling online, 2022 is likely your last chance to break into the world of online retail. Ecommerce has experienced exponential growth in the past two years and it is showing no signs of stopping. This trend will not end with COVID - Gen Z’s shop online more than any other generation in history. 

But even if you are already selling online, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are ensured success. It is important to keep up with trends and consumer expectations in the online world as trends are always shifting. For example, social media shopping is becoming increasingly popular, which means it is critical to keep popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify organized and up to date. You’ll also want to ensure your order management system is in great shape because slow processing and delivery times are a sure way to lose customers in the online world. This will go hand in hand with having a sophisticated procurement setup. Ecommerce will cause your most popular items to sell quickly and nothing is more frustrating than losing excited customers to a stockout. 

#3 Use data to make smarter decisions

In 2020 and 2021, loungewear and activewear were the most popular categories for clothing. But 2022 is expecting a wardrobe reboot as consumers return to work and school. But this doesn’t mean that you should necessarily dive headfirst into formalwear. Collecting data and understanding what sells and what doesn’t will be crucial in the new world of apparel. A refusal to change with the times and listen to consumers was the nail in the coffin for many retailers who went under in the past two years. Apparel companies need to implement comprehensive reporting features to gain visibility into current sales, past trends, and specific details about seasonal buying behavior. You’ll want a reporting feature that lets you see specific data and export reports for internal and external use so that everyone from designers to accountants are on the same page about what needs to be done. 

#4 Plan for supply chain disruptions

It's no secret that a serious supply chain crisis is rocking almost every industry across the globe. If you felt the pressure this past season, things will only get worse. The apparel industry is reliant on complex supply chains to design and manufacture products. Companies will have to get crafty and creative with their procurement and manufacturing strategies in order to meet demand. Full control and visibility over manufacturing will be the key to optimizing production so that no material or resource is wasted. You’ll also want a supply chain management system that lets you see the full scope of all of your vendor activities, and allows you to make quick changes should things go awry. 

#5 Re-organize your warehouse 

Was your holiday season marked by lost items, misplaced orders, and exhausted warehouse staff? That's a sure sign it is time to overhaul your warehouse operations. The best way to optimize your storage spaces is by identifying your inefficiencies. Where does your warehouse get the most disorganized? Identifying problem areas is an excellent way to see the flaws in this specific area and also find weaknesses across your entire workflow. A great way to do this is by creating unique locations for items within your warehouse.  Locations have both digital and material signifiers that let you track product movement in a variety of ways. 

Another simple and effective way to get and stay organized is by implementing SKUs, UPCs, and item codes. There are numerous ways to generate these codes but the easiest is by using tools that automatically associate codes with items. It is also important that your warehouse management system gives you live updates as a product moves through and between warehouse locations. This will make it easier to plan receiving, shipments, and organize returns. 

Expect the unexpected in 2022

After surveying the damage of the post-holiday season, it's time for apparel companies to plan for the year ahead. 2020 and 2021 were hard years, but they taught us some important lessons. One of those most important lessons is to take steps to gain flexibility and adaptability in order to embrace the uncertainty ahead. Companies must be strategic about how they position themselves for the upcoming year. Just because shoppers may be ready to buy like in the before-times, that doesn’t mean they are looking for the same shopping experience. Companies need to use every tool in their arsenal and have fully connected and integrated business management tools. ParagonERP for Apparel is the perfect solution for companies looking to optimize their returns, order, inventory, and warehouse management to be well-prepared for whatever 2022 brings.

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