Advances in software and technology are allowing stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Aéropostale and Kohl's to offer the latest fashion trends weeks -- or even months -- faster than before
and giving the beleaguered retailers more stable profitability, says Jeff Klinefelter, an analyst at Piper Jaffray.
New software lets designers, buyers and manufacturers view the same fabric
swatch or color at the same time, ending the need to fly designers around the globe or to send overnight packages.
By quickly moving the most desirable items into stores, retailers can also
ease their reliance on price markdowns. They can also order less merchandise more often. This lets them adjust orders more easily once certain styles or sizes fail to sell.
J.C. Penney has
shrunk the time from when a style is "a gleam in the eye" of a designer until it's in the store from about a year, as recently as 2006, to about seven months, says president Ken Hicks. "The ability to
react to what's selling is so important to the customer," Hicks says. "They want innovation, and newness."
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