This article was published in Fortune April 29, 2021. We're sharing it because it highlights how many major players in the fashion industry are openly shifting strategies to handle overstocked goods that piled up during the pandemic. This is an issue often raised in our industry when discussing the benefits of on-demand manufacturing.
The fashion supply chain before the pandemic was operating at flying speed. The industry was expanding quickly, with brands being able to design a dress and have it selling in stores in under a week.
When things came to a complete stop amid the COVID-19 pandemic, something snapped. The business model of producing vast amounts of clothes and selling them in the fastest amount of time began to fail. A pileup ensued.
Fashion has been dealing with this issue for a while: what to do with unwanted, unsold deadstock and fabrics. But with lockdowns throughout the globe, the issue became impossible to ignore.
“Closed doors, canceled orders, missed seasons, changes in consumer preferences. There has been this huge volume of deadstock, more now than ever, all over the world,” Stephanie Benedetto, founder of deadstock marketplace Queen of Raw, told Fortune.
Prior to the pandemic, retailers tended to over-order on seasonal buys, selling half at full price while the rest is discounted in end-of-season sales to attract a lower-price customer. For both fast fashion and couture clothing production, it is cheaper to double volumes with a factory and deal with excess later.
This hurt company bottom lines. Before the pandemic, the textile industry was edging over $1 trillion in size, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 4.4%. With the fashion industry making up a solid 80% of demand, unused fabric cost the industry $120 billion per year, according to New York–based Queen of Raw.