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Why Analytics and Agility Are Critical to Success in Today’s Retail Market

SKYPAD, a B2B SaaS platform which offers sell-through data distribution and streamlined reporting to partner retailers like Saks and fashion brands including Robert Graham, is designed to meet industry needs around increased transparency on product performance and agility in a changeable market.
Concept image of shoppers moving through a shopping centre.
SKYPAD aims to improve the inefficiencies and challenges of maintaining an in-house vendor portal. (Getty Images)
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Thirty-seven percent of fashion executives expect to focus on cost improvements in 2023, according to BoF and McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2023 report. As a result, businesses must keep a close eye on product performance and consumer reception. The annual report states those who will most effectively manage inflation for growth “will leverage data and analytics capabilities to work out where consumers are most price sensitive and which segments are the most exposed to inflation.”

SKYPAD, a B2B hosted vendor reporting portal, was designed to cater to the dynamic needs of retailers looking to exchange sales and inventory performance reports with their brand partners, driving productivity and maximising opportunity through enhanced brand-retailer collaboration.

Today, SKYPAD’s retail partner base works within luxury and fashion apparel, home, beauty and cosmetics, as well as jewellery markets. Its automated and streamlined reporting process speeds up data analysis, unifies the stylisation of reports, improves oversight on a changeable market and reduces the chance of human error. Reports are aggregated to optimise sales and performances in a standardised format, allowing retailers and brands to better meet demand with supply, react to localised trends and support staff with critical insights on the ground.

The State of Fashion report also found that 72 percent of fashion executives plan to increase prices in 2023. As a result, businesses need to build dynamic pricing capabilities that account for fluctuations in customer purchasing power and can maximise impact across assortments and regions. This approach better enables businesses to adapt to a high-inflation environment, protect top lines but also manage inflation’s impact on consumers.

An oversight into such analytics plays a critical role in understanding where to make difficult trade-offs in inventory and supply chain management, to prioritise profitability over revenue and market share, and critically, respond in real-time. SKYPAD enables its users to view performance on their products across sales channels, including stores, online and outlet. It allows retailers and their brand partners to have a more accurate view of inventory, to better manage supply and demand to improve overstocking and sustainability efforts.

Now, BoF meets with senior executives at luxury retailer Saks and fashion brand Robert Graham to understand how they are optimising their data analysis and how they use SKYPAD to streamline processes.

James Newell, Vice President, DMM Men’s Designer & Contemporary at Saks

How are you utilising data analytics and tracking to scale efficiently?

We track customer behaviour and use the data to get in front of the shift in demand, whether it is by brands, by category or by use case. We use this data on our planning side, digging into option phasing or SKU optimisation to drive sell-through — one of our most important metrics.

A good example of this is denim. Press and influencers would have had us believe the skinny jean trend was dead a couple of years ago. Accessing comprehensive data validated this shift in customer tastes. This real time data, by geography, has been crucial to our outsized growth in our denim business. We tailor our investment and style discovery on Saks.com, our mobile app and in consumer messaging, to ensure we are meeting our customers where they are.

If a major change in the climate and weather impacts consumer behaviour in a region [...] we use SKYPAD for option phasing and then sort our buys by different geos.

Our growth team plays a pivotal role, as they help us balance trade-offs between optimal SKU count for driving site traffic, but also have solutions for managing sell-through and balancing our margin expectations. We work across different merchandising organisations, like in shoes or ready-to-wear, to ensure we are growing ecosystems of brands that a customer is shopping in tandem with one another for increased retention with that customer.

What are your core business priorities for 2023?

Our key business priorities are driving scale and efficiency. The men’s business has experienced a lot of growth over the last five years, especially following the pandemic, because our customer was eager to get out of the house and socialise. We are now in a new phase of cultivating and retaining our high lifetime value (LTV) customers.

We are seeing that our customer is finding more occasions to dress up, so we are constantly evaluating our investments and shifting our classification investments, like out of hooded sweatshirts and into woven shirting and tailoring. We are choosing new collections to bridge the gap between advanced fashion and fashion that is more versatile for a hybrid lifestyle.

How do data analytics empower your teams in their day-to-day work?

Early access to information allows us to minimise our liabilities and drive sales when we still have time left in the season to react to changes in the market. For example, if a major change in the climate and weather impacts consumer behaviour in a region — and we have an entire team dedicated to our store allocation — we use SKYPAD for option phasing, and then sort our buys by different geos.

It’s pivotal that we are on the same page with our brand partners, monitoring slowdowns and new tranches of business together.

Having easy access to data is super important, otherwise we would be working on information that was stale by a couple of weeks, which isn’t effective in our industry. Instead, our team can come up with ideas, react and pivot, on a weekly basis — we can stay one step ahead of the curve.

How do you work with your brand partners to optimise performance?

It’s pivotal that we are on the same page with our brand partners, monitoring slowdowns and new tranches of business together. If we see that something is working well, we can shift our investments to bolster it, or reinvest elsewhere. Also, if categories are working particularly well online, we can shift some of our edit out of stores and onto Saks.com, or vice versa.

Through SKYPAD, we collaborate closely with brand partners to ensure all parties feel good about allocations. So, when we are in the market, we are all using the same foundation of information.

You can tell which brands are data-driven and on the same page. For example, the team at Robert Graham is constantly evaluating what’s selling on a daily basis and using that to inform future collections they are designing.

Jennifer Tucciarone, Vice President of Sales at Robert Graham

What are your core business and retail priorities for 2023?

Our growth strategies include diversification of our lifestyle and key item programmes to appeal to new end uses. As a brand, we cater to our wholesale partners with retail stores and online channels, as well as our own D2C channel — 26 owned retail stores and a digital flagship. It is critical for Robert Graham to operate as an omnichannel company platform for our collectors.

Inventory management is a key priority – buying in a smarter and more edited way allows for more meaningful and productive SKUs with tighter inventory. SKYPAD allows us to see total inventory in one snapshot and make strategic decisions.

How are you utilising data analytics and tracking to scale efficiently?

Historically, the nature of aggregating data from multiple sources and analysing was a tremendous amount of work. We would receive reporting from multiple accounts in different formats that needed to be compiled and then analysed, creating an extremely time-consuming process, delaying action on the data.

The most important thing for us is looking at accurate information in a consistent reporting format which helps us speak to our buyers with the right business intelligence and recommendations for profitability. For wholesale relationship building, it is about maintaining and supporting our accounts, partnering with those specialty and department stores and helping them grow with us.

Looking at accurate information in a consistent reporting format helps us speak to our buyers with the right business intelligence and recommendations for profitability.

SKYPAD has streamlined the process for us so we can run weekly reports for all tiers of management to recap business, pivot and make decisions quickly in real time. We are making suggestions to management, calling out opportunities and reacting to trends that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do until the data was fully aggregated.

How does the platform empower your teams in their day-to-day work?

SKYPAD allows us to be proactive in recommended strategies versus reactive with our accounts. It’s one source of truth with a streamlined data set that we can optimise. From marketing to sales support to inventory turn, the data allows us to action efficiently.

The platform has a lot of visuals to support the data, making it useful for sales teams and buyers, and even for storytelling to our store managers. We also use it with design and merchandising to send out what’s working, enabling them to have a clearer picture for real-time changes and future season impact.

What have you learned about your different geographic locations to optimise performance?

We use SKYPAD’s analytics for intel in terms of looking at geographical locations where we see opportunities. With varying geo-focused product preferences, we can allocate the right product to the right region. Looking at the selling by region has helped us assort the buys for our customers. We don’t do a universal door buy – there is no one-size-fits-all. We have a large dropship business within our D2C channels and we leverage that to understand the white space based on demand.

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