@Outdoor Retailer: PLM can enable Smarter Product Development Decisions

I attended a seminar while at the OR Show on buying trends in the outdoor industry thus far in 2010, across specialty retail, big box, Internet: there are a number of trends affecting growth of the outdoor industry. 

As I saw the data presented behind these trends, one thought stuck in my mind: wouldn’t it be great if a softlines, hardlines, and footwear (SH&F) manufacturers could have access to this and other product performance information during the design and line planning phase of product development, and during a season, to determine what has sold in the past, what’s currently selling, and why?  It is, I think the holy grail of product development – having access within your PLM system to rich analytics when you need them, to optimize what you sell, where you sell what product, and to whom. All with the goal of maximizing margins.

The trends discussed during the seminar include:

  • Tight inventories.  Example is the rocket-ship growth of Vibram FiveFingers, the natural running shoe that looks like feet; the brand is so hot, that the company could not initially keep up with demand. So the lean inventory approach retailers have been taking over the past couple of years, due to the recession, sometimes comes back to bite.  The takeaway is the ability to have “early warning signals” (good/bad sales, quality issues, customer complaints) integrated with your product development process, is critical.vibram five fingers

  • New footwear concepts. Again, FiveFingers.  Know thy customer well, and ye shall reap the rewards – integrating these concepts into the front end of innovation and the product lifecycle is difficult without a PLM system in place.

  • Sandals are hot. Both leisure and performance/sport sandals. In short, the sport footwear industry is innovating and meeting customer needs.

  • Outdoor apparel has become a lifestyle.  That’s obvious just walking around the Outdoor Retailer show – creating the right high performing softlines, hardlines, and footwear product and delivering it to the customer when they want it, leads to brand loyalty.  Moreover these brands market themselves very well – they are “aspirational” brands that make customers want to be like that guy or girl in their catalog climbing a mountain, or skiing in knee-deep powder.

  • Technical brands begin to develop their own sportswear.  So they will require a flexible product development platform that can manage design, CAD file sharing, calendar management, line planning, costing, and sourcing for multiple product categories.

  • Hardlines growth is accelerating.  This drives the need for tight integration between CAD and PLM, as well as system openness so multiple file types can talk to each other and the global team can collaborate efficiently.

The approach Siemens PLM takes with Teamcenter for SH&F, our product for the retail industry, is PLM is not simply a design and data management tool, it is a decision support platform that gives you the visibility and intelligence that enables collaboration, coordination, and good decision making across your value chain. Having access to information about dwindling inventories, customer requirements/trends, and product performance/sales data is critical so you can come up with the next cool running shoe, backpack, or gadget, you can address any quality issues for a product, and you can change your mix of products for any given season based on what’s moving off the shelf and what’s not.  In short, PLM can help you make smarter decisions during every phase of your development process – product design, planning, collaboration, and delivery. 

See http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/industries/apparel_footwear/index.shtml if you’re interested in learning more, or let me know your thoughts.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/news/outdoor-retailer-plm-can-enable-smarter-product-development-decisions/