As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many fashion and apparel companies are looking for new ways to cut costs and adapt to changes in consumer buying habits. Brick and mortar stores have been shuttered for weeks and many companies are stuck with extra inventory while consumers focus more of their resources on essential goods. According to recent data, consumer spending for clothing dropped 50% in March causing many brands to reorganize their businesses and retool sales strategies in response to the crisis.
Many believe consumer buying habits will also be affected long term. With more people shopping online than ever before, experts predict that they “are ‘highly unlikely to revert back’ to mall shopping after experiencing its efficiency, convenience and everyday low-pricing.”
Digitally native brands that rely on the Internet to engage customers are faring better than those that rely on physical stores for sales. That’s why many fashion and home goods brands are exploring ways to diversify sales by adding a Direct to Consumer (DTC) channel. Even prior to the pandemic, many big brands like Nike and Adidas were building a larger online presence to gain more control over their selling landscape. From a future sustainability standpoint, a DTC channel could offer your business a way to boost sales even if physical stores remain closed or consumers don’t return to traditional shopping venues.
Strengthening customer relationships with DTC
A Direct-to-Consumer channel is when a brand establishes a direct relationship with its customers online through its web and/or social media presence. Two of the biggest benefits a DTC channel provides are better product margins and deeper customer insights. When brands don’t have to rely solely on third-party retailers for sales, they can drive customer loyalty. A closer relationship helps your business better understand what customers want from your brand—from product design and experiences to exclusive offers, perks, and discounts. However, starting a DTC channel requires some careful thought and planning.
What you need to know when building or expanding your DTC channel
To build a sustainable supply chain, you need a plan to optimize resource usage at the right time to meet consumer demand. With DTC, you won’t depend on a middleman to sell your goods—but your business will have to pick up the slack. Adding or ramping up your DTC channel will require some additional functions and investments in your business including marketing, sales, customer service, packaging, and fulfillment.
To build a successful DTC channel, follow these best practices to maximize success:
• Know your customers. In the past, your business may have relied on retailers to attract customers and sell goods. When selling directly, it’s critical to understand your customers and what makes them tick “including how they buy, what they buy, and how they differ from your distribution and retail customers.” Your business will need to conduct ongoing market research and be prepared to attract and serve a variety of potential online customer journeys.
• Adapt your infrastructure, automate, and build responsive processes. While an easy-to-browse and –buy website is important, don’t forget about your supply chain processes. To support a great customer experience, you may need to add new customer service functions and personnel and also consider some new technology systems to increase efficiency and visibility, including ERP, Supply Chain Management, and Warehouse Management.
• Attract direct customers through marketing. To be successful, your business must expand its marketing efforts to reach new and existing buyers. Your marketing strategy will inform customers how they can buy direct from you and set expectations. Nurture the customer relationship through content marketing, email, promotional offers, and social media campaigns. For example, Nike developed an app that provides customers the ability to unlock product launches, exclusive content, and in-store perks, increasing direct sales revenue and loyalty.
See how Exenta can help
Exenta solutions embolden the apparel industry to gain deeper customer insights that drive better business decisions and increased profitability. Learn how you can support your DTC sales efforts with the right Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that has pre-built integration to top e-commerce channels including Shopify, Magento, and Amazon.
Fast, easy shipping is also key to DTC success. Find out how vertically integrating your warehouse allows you to benefit from built in FedEx, UPS, and USPS labeling solutions. Through Exenta, you can also leverage drop ship capabilities to accelerate order fulfillment with your ecommerce partners and enjoy seamless management of returns and restocking.
Register for a free software demonstration and see for yourself how Exenta’s ERP solution delivers better insight into day-to-day operations, increases profitability, and boosts efficiency.
Popular workwear manufacturer and Exenta Shopfloor Control client, Carhartt, has pivoted operations in their facilities to provide medical gowns and masks to America’s brave men and women at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent press release, Mark Valade, CEO of Carhartt says, “Serving and answering the call during times of need has always been an integral part of Carhartt’s history and it’s why consumers have trusted us to have their back for more than 130 years… We are humbled and honored to help all the essential workers serving and protecting us right now.” Exenta shares the same humility in being able to provide such a respected client as Carhartt with an effective Shopfloor Control (SFC) system.
Exenta Shop Floor Control systems provide in-house manufacturing operations with real-time visibility into works in progress (WIP), quality and workforce productivity. This information empowers manufacturers to make decisions that keep productivity high and ensure on-time deliveries. With real-time tracking of manufacturing operations, manufacturers can make changes more quickly to optimize efficiency and quality. Carhartt’s press release states, “Carhartt will begin producing 50,000 medical gowns, and on April 20, the company will begin manufacturing 2.5 million masks. As long as these critical items are in short supply, Carhartt will continue to assist production.”
Thank you, Carhartt, for innovating to protect our global community. To learn more about how to participate in PPE manufacturing visit Stop the Spread.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of watching the U.S.N.S Comfort arrive in New York Harbor. It was an equally sad and uplifting moment for me as an American, one of many over the past month. Like many of us at moments during this strange time of quarantine, it may have taken some time for the ship itself to be led to its highest and best use. While there were days when the ship seemed to lack for patients, it ultimately was refitted to treat an overflow of COVID-19 patients and provided needed beds for many New Yorkers. Today, the ship is also taking patients from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, providing relief to other overwhelmed hospital systems. In some ways, we’ve all been in the Comfort’s space this past month, ready to be a useful contributor to our businesses, our families, and our community, but in need of an adjustment to the requirements of our new circumstances.
While our global community continues its journey through the pandemic crisis, at Exenta we continue to be impressed by the resilience of our internal teams and by the innovative spirit of our clients. In a timeframe better measured in hours than days, we seamlessly transitioned all our NYC-based employees to remote work without any disruption to production systems or client support. Through the course of normal daily conversations with clients we learned that many were pivoting production to design and manufacture masks and other forms of PPE. The creativity and generosity of the fashion and sewn goods industry in these challenging times is an inspiration to many.
As we all begin to look forward to some gradual return to a new type of normalcy and navigate a way back to the businesses we love, Exenta has curated a selection of resources on topics of relevance to our industry. We will update the resources below on a weekly basis, so check back regularly for more guidance on how our industry will get back to work!
Exanta COVID-19 Resources:
Reshaping Office Space After COVID-19
Federal Guidance on Reopening
Maintaining a Clean Office Environment
Keeping Workers Healthy on the Job
CDC Employer Guidance
SBA Funding Options and General Guidance
SBA Loan Resources
NYS Shared Work Program
CDC Cleaning Guidelines for Reopening your Business
Guidance and Resources for Manufacturing PPE
How to Partner with the Stop the Spread Coalition
PPE Manufacturing Guidelines
FDA Guidance on PPE
International Safety Equipment Association Guidance
Supply Chain During and Post COVID-19
SPESA/SEAMS Join Webinar: COVID-19 Supply Chain Dynamics
What Will the Supply Chain Look Like Post Pandemic
Guidance for Manufacturers
SPESA Resource Center
SPESA Town Hall
Smart Manufacturing After COVID-19
Guidance for Brands
Marketing Tips for Brands in the Pandemic
Five Consumer Trends Expected to Emerge from the Pandemic
The State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update from BofF
At Exenta, we are proud to be part of an industry that is a constant source of inspiration. Across the globe, apparel and sewn goods manufacturers are demonstrating their ability to adapt and innovate in a time of crisis.
Covercraft, Expert in Working with Specialty Fabrics
Exenta’s client Covercraft Industries, a leader in manufacturing Automotive, Marine and Recreational Vehicle protection products, has shifted gears to help fight the Coronavirus Pandemic. President and COO of Covercraft, Clay Callan, stated in a press release, “Covercraft’s expertise in working with non-woven specialty fabrics has allowed us to pivot our operations in the USA from crafting car covers, seat covers, and windshield sunscreens to helping provide hospitals and first responders with personal protective equipment incredibly fast.”
Shopfloor Control MES Supports a Hygienic Manufacturing Process and Increases Productivity
Helping Covercraft navigate this adjustment is Exenta Shopfloor Control (SFC). Our real-time manufacturing solution increases productivity and efficiency, reduces through put time and improves visibility and control. In addition, because Exenta SFC is tablet driven, it helps manufacturers maintain a safer and more hygienic environment for workers. Instead of passing papers or gum sheets down the line, each worker touches their own dedicated tablet to record their work; see photo above for an example of the tablet in use. Exenta system leverages an innovative Android™ app, shown in the image above, management dashboard, and off-the-shelf tablets running on Wi-Fi networking to collect production data and empower workers, supervisors and managers with up to the minute production visibility.
Shift in Production Brings Workers Back to the Shop Floor
Local news outlets covering Covercraft’s shift stated the influx of work has brought back as many as 25 recently furloughed employees. Covercraft’s Director of Marketing, Jeff Jegelewicz spoke with Oklahoma City, News 9 “At current capacity we think we can do about 4,000 units per day with what we have going on right now, but those could change to much larger numbers if the need is there and we can get the workforce back in here.”
Exenta is pleased to play a part in helping Covercraft make the transition to manufacturing needed PPE and in making it possible for employees to work in an environment that mitigates possible exposure to COVID-19.
When you’re running a sewn goods manufacturing business, it can be tough to stay ahead of the competition from designing new styles and delivering new customer experiences to improving production efficiency. Missing the smallest detail can make a big impact. That’s why many forward-thinking brands use Shop Floor Control, a real-time manufacturing solution that collects production data and empowers workers with up-to-the-minute visibility and control.
There’s also another story. New advancements in Shop Floor Control can be used to foster greater inclusivity in the workplace and help your entire workforce be more productive. Using off-the-shelf tablets running on Wi-Fi networking and an innovative Android™ app, manufacturers can enable visually impaired operators to boost productivity and engage more easily. These built-in assistive technologies remove access barriers for workers with low vision needs and color blindness so they can leverage data on their tablets quickly and confidently.
Empowering workers with visual impairments
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 2.2 billion people around the world who have vision impairment or blindness. A visual impairment is defined as “a decrease in the ability to see to a certain degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses.” Types of visual impairment include color blindness, partially sighted, low vision, and legally blind. The American Federation for the Blind estimates that about 44 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired are employed.
Workers with visual impairments face unique challenges on the job in fashion and soft goods manufacturing. Social and interpersonal communication challenges and lack of access to assistive technology sometimes create a barrier to advancement due to difficulties fitting into workplace culture or becoming a more effective employee. Fashion brands can remove these barriers by leveraging tools such as automated screen magnifiers for low-vision workers, tailored color schemes or descriptive text to aid color blind workers, and text-to-speech to accommodate the legally blind to ensure greater accuracy.
Workplace challenges faced by the visually impaired
Historically, the fashion industry used paper-based ticketing processes for data collection. This process provided very limited visibility into production processes and was not accessible to visually impaired workers. As fashion production processes and data collection became more automated and sophisticated, employers were able to provide special devices to assist visually impaired workers. Using cameras to magnify data on LED displays, visually impaired workers could make manual adjustments to see the content they needed to perform their job. This is often a cumbersome process and adjustments can prove difficult, resulting in worker frustration and inefficiency. Additionally, visually impaired workers had no ability to perform quality control or double-check their work.
New technologies remove the barriers for visually impaired
To provide flexible aids and tools that better accommodate different types of visual impairment, Exenta leveraged advanced technologies and a new Android user interface for Shop Floor Control tablets. Here’s how new Shop Floor Control functionality helps:
• Automated screen magnifiers for low-vision workers. Built-in screen magnifiers with automatic adjustments help low vision workers access specific text, images, and other visual information needed quickly at the correct level of focus. For example, a typical device may have 15 pieces of data displayed at one time. A visually impaired worker can utilize a special interface to zoom in on just one piece of data whether it’s a work order, operation or tag and enlarge it to full view on an 18-inch Android tablet.
• Flexible color schemes to assist color-blind workers. People with color vision deficiency have difficulty differentiating between particular shades of reds and greens and in some cases, blues and yellows. Exenta’s new Shop Floor Control interface provides the ability to select different color schemes that accommodate different workers’ needs. You can also provide text labels that explain what each color represents.
• Text-to-speech functionality to increase accuracy or accommodate legally blind workers. Using Bluetooth speakers, this technology has the ability to have the tablet read out the information needed to speed up processes and ensure accuracy.
Increase shop floor control and performance
Providing assistive technologies to accommodate visually impaired workers enables them to be more engaged, innovative, and confident. According to a recent Inc. article, “organizations with inclusive cultures are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.”
Exenta works with customers to determine where advanced technologies intersect with competitive market needs, consumer desires, and improved workplace outcomes. Learn more about our assistive technology advancements for visually impaired workers and how these tools help you promote safety, collaboration, and an inclusive work environment. Schedule an Exenta Shop Floor Control demo and see how our new functionality for visually impaired workers ensures that everyone on your team can be successful and productive.
The news is full of uplifting stories of the contributions that organizations in the apparel industry (and other industries) are making to support healthcare workers amid the global pandemic crisis. Today at Exenta we are celebrating a client whose contributions hit a little closer to home. For over a decade, Healing Hands has designed uniforms for medical professionals with a focus on style, durability, and quality.
Healing Hands got its start when founder Bansi Lakhani, then CEO of the sportswear brand Krazy Kat, was a hospital patient recovering from a massive heart attack. Bansi was overwhelmed by the kindness and care he received from his nursing team. But, as someone who knew quality design and fabric, he was also dismayed at the stiff material and boxy fabrication of their scrubs. Healing Hands was inspired by Bansi’s experience and his desire to give nurses and other medical professionals uniforms that are affordable, comfortable, stylish, easy to care for and suitable for their active workdays. As a special touch, some are imprinted with inspirational messages to show appreciation for the talent and dedication of healthcare workers.
Healing Hands designs its scrubs and uniforms using Exenta’s PLM REVO and relies on Exenta ERP to manage and fulfill orders.
A Passion to Support Healthcare Professionals
Today, Healing Hands is led by Bansi’s son, Sid who took over as CEO and is carrying on the family tradition of care and commitment to medical professionals. Bansi now focuses his expertise on textile and design as the company’s founder and Chief Product Officer. As Healing Hands watched the pandemic crisis enfold in March, his immediate concern was for healthcare workers, who are serving on the front lines fighting COVID-19. “Our company DNA is driven by my father, Bansi’s commitment to care for and support the healing angels of healthcare,” Sid shared. “His spirit and personal mission to give back to caregivers is the inspiration and motivation for everything that we do and never has it been so important to support caregivers than it is today.”
Under Bansi’s and Sid’s leadership, Healing Hands mobilized quickly, sourcing and purchasing PPE, masks and other needed supplies from its manufacturing contacts around the globe and donating them to local hospital staff. “Consistent with our mission to care for the health care professionals who give so much to us, we wanted to do more,” said Sid. On March 27th, Healing Hands announced that it would donate 10,000 medical uniforms to organizations in dire need. “Our nation’s healthcare workers are risking their lives, working double shifts, coming out of retirement and living apart from their families,” stated Sid. “At Healing Hands, we’re proud to be able to support those who give so much to all of us.” Organizations wishing to request uniforms from Healings Hands can do so by emailing email@example.com. Healing Hands will also continue to work to source and donate PPE from around the globe and hopes its generosity will inspire others to deliver the same support.
Giving Back in a Time of Global Disruption
Healing Hands is giving back at a time when its own operations are experiencing disruption due to COVID-19. Located in New Jersey in an area that has been under Stay at Home orders for many weeks. Sid and the rest of the Healing Hands team are carrying on their important work remotely. At Exenta, we’re humbled to be a small part of our client’s generosity as Healing Hands relies on our ERP to manage and fulfill the donation requests received and continues work on its next season of healthcare uniforms through PLM REVO. “Being able to use both the Exenta ERP and PLM solutions remotely has greatly eased the transition to virtual work for our teams. Exenta ERP is the backbone of all our systems and I’m particularly pleased that we have had a web-based PLM to support our designers,” shared Sid.
For more information on Healing Hands and the contributions the company is making to support medical professionals, visit https://www.instagram.com/HHScrubs/. If you represent a fashion, apparel or soft goods company that would like to make a contribution to support hospitals in your area, most hospital websites have set up donation pages that state critical needs including masks, scrubs, gowns and other forms of PPE. Healthcare workers’ needs don’t end with PPE; most hospitals are also accepting donations to cover meals, groceries, lodging, transportation and laundry services. Regardless of your industry, your organization can play a part in helping to end COVID-19. As Sid said, “let’s beat this together!”