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The novel coronavirus has had a sweeping impact on the fashion industry, however, its full extent has yet to be felt. The newest challenge to rock retail is a massive shortage of inventory for the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 seasons thanks to early-pandemic cancellations, factory closures and delays- a stark contrast to spring’s inventory surplus issues.

Retailers are having a hard time getting in-season immediates as brands lack product due to COVID-19. Ironically, the opposite is also true; many brands are sitting on merchandise, unable to move inventory. 

What’s more, the same inventory shortage issues created by the pandemic limit reorder possibilities for retailers. Many retailers ordered Fall merchandise but will be unable to replenish successfully-selling sizes or styles because brands do not have available-to-sell (ATS) merchandise on hand. “I’ve noticed a good amount of vendors editing and canceling our Fall orders due to the pandemic. It doesn’t seem that the fashion industry is getting back on track until 2021 and even then I’ve had some vendors even put caps on order amounts to protect themselves,” explains Elizabeth LeGore, founder of Vagabond Apparel Boutique in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “I’m not seeing a lot of ATS for reorders right now and I had a few big orders canceled for Fall and Holiday from brands wanting to play it safe and be more conservative with their buy for the rest of 2020.” 

Fall inventory shortages aside, a lack of ATS goods puts brands at risk today and in the long run. When a retailer is unable to source enough inventory for the season, they’ll turn elsewhere. Alternate vendors make brand partners replaceable, putting them at risk to lose business in seasons to come.

SwapRetail offers a safe, easy and anonymous solution for both retailers and brands. The web-app facilitates the buying, selling and swapping of unsold goods between brands’ authorized retailers. The service strengthens brand-retailer relationships, keeping brand partners relevant even throughout the extraordinary circumstances currently impacting the industry. Retailers with a surplus or lack of inventory benefit as do brands.

There’s no fee for retailers with excess goods to sell at cost to authorized retailers in need, yet a 5% fee for swaps and a 10% fee for purchases so that stores will always go directly to brands to determine their ATS first. Brand clients include White + Warren, Ecru, Johnny Was and more.

Anonymous merchandise exchanges protect retailers’ proprietary information while participating brands benefit from an improved sell-through in-stores. Christine Russo, retail strategist and Management One consultant chimes in: “Retail has made the hard pivot to practically real-time inventory management and sourcing. The shift in KPI emphasis from merely focusing on margin to focusing on freshness and time in-store is a magic factor in a store’s success. The length of time product is in a store, and not moving drags the sell-through rate down. SwapRetail allows specialty stores to meticulously manage their inventory, freshness and margins by giving the owner the reins to modify their inventory with speed and laser focus on SKUs that sell. It’s the innovation specialty stores can implement so that they control the sale rack rather than having the sale rack control them.”

Today, more than ever, brands are expected to work with retailers if their sell-through rates are poor. “Brands that partner with SwapRetail give their retailers a way to work inventory issues out amongst themselves. We’ve thought through every scenario to assure these merchandise transfers are smooth, anonymous and controlled; it’s no wild wild west,” says SwapRetail co-founder and CEO, Melodie van der Baan, a past rep and current retailer.

Brands on SwapRetail maintain relevance and nurture wholesale relationships, while solving the business’ greatest inventory challenges. “So many brands are working with a skeleton crew at this time,” says Morgan Bodstrom, co-founder and Director of Brand Relations at SwapRetail. “We’re able to provide an additional leg of support to these brands, allowing them to pass off to our team the retailer inventory issues which they cannot resolve, and it’s making a big difference for all.”