Retailers are worried about the AW20 season – and for good reason. With so much uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of non-essential stores and spending at an all-time low, forward orders written in January and February were decided in a wholly different era.

As the UK lockdown continues, the period retailers will be able sell SS20 clothing, even at a discount, is dwindling.

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Fashion retailers are in crisis management discussions to limit the devastation. Saving non-trend related summer fashion until 2021 will help reduce profit loss. And re-purposing unsold stock for the autumn months, such as jeans, spring knits and long-sleeved tees, is a realistic possibility. At the luxury end of the market, which is more governed by the seasons, selling stock on to discount retailers might just provide a lifeline. Of course, many retailers will try to shift their stock at a discounted price either online or as soon as they can re-open. For many, this will continue for long after end of summer sales traditionally begin in June. Which begs the question: could the pandemic regulate the fashion seasons?

Regardless of the coronavirus outbreak, the fashion industry’s product cycle has been at odds with our climatological seasons for quite some time. Shoppers have become used to seeing summer dresses in stores when they are still braving the frost and bobble hats when there’s more sunshine on the horizon. This topsy-turvy selling culture has been imposed by fast fashion chains and an ever-rapid race to discount. But it is very much in spite of the shopper’s preference to ‘buy now, wear now.’

So, will we see a new (or indeed go back to a previous) way of selling fashion when stores can reopen? And could the pandemic finally force fast fashion retailers to reduce their lines and become more responsible?

The post-COVID-19 world is so uncertain. When the cold weather bites in October and shoppers begin looking for winter coats, delayed deliveries of AW20 forward orders could mean that retailers have garments on their rails that actually match the season. But for those retailer owners who’ve panicked and cancelled or reduced their forward orders, there is still a lot of anxiety about whether they will have the right stock (and enough of it) in store at the right time.

Short ordering can be a less risky way to operate in such an uncertain time, but finding suitable in-season collections can often be difficult. A truly viable solution is now being offered by online B2B marketplaces, which allow retailers to order quality stock for immediate delivery. TradeGala is leading the way in the UK. Its site offers a growing number of affordable brands in various sectors – from womenswear and menswear to shoes, bags and jewellery. Its team carefully selects its supplier partners to include both famous names and emerging independent designers.

Retailers can use TradeGala to order what they need as and when they need it. The site is easy to navigate and once registered, buyers have access to live stock levels so they can see exactly what’s available at any given time. It also offers centralised customer service and payment protection, so retailers are just dealing with one supplier instead of many.

For brands, TradeGala offers greater visibility and access to retailers in countries that have been less affected by the pandemic. Meanwhile, smaller independent brands are able to take their first steps into the wholesale market under the direction of an experienced team.

While the pandemic has been absolutely catastrophic, not only for people’s health but also their finances, there is a chink of light for fashion retailers. Perhaps now the industry can adjust to its ‘new normal’ and create an improved product rhythm that is better suited to demand. And maybe buying more brands in-season with less risk to the retailer might become easier. Because in the post-coronavirus world, such radical change really does seem possible

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