This is great! To me, the biggest value-add of this process is that it largely solves the demand planning / inventory management problem. Apparel / shoe companies are constantly working to offload styles/sizes/colors that didn’t sell, which is why Professor Shih’s T.J.Maxx stock is performing so well. If Under Armour could scale made-to-order manufacturing, it would be great for their bottom line and the environment. In response to Jasper’s comment above – I think the best way to roll out this product would be online-only – similar to how Nike offers their customized Nike ID shoes. I think the novelty of custom-printed shoes would be exciting enough that customers would happily wait a couple weeks to receive their orders.
Great article! It’s interesting that the predominant reason for Amazon’s introduction of Amazon Dash is for demand planning. I had assumed its main purpose was to get consumers to purchase absolutely everything from Amazon. If I were to run out of laundry detergent, I would make a mental note to go online and order from Amazon later. However, I might forget to do this. Or I might elect to pick something up at my local bodega for immediate gratification. Having a button right next to my laundry detergent would greatly increase my chances of re-ordering from Amazon. My main hesitation to use Amazon Dash would not be hacking or automation, as you mention above. I am simply not committed enough to specific products to get a button for constant replacement of a single product. However, I can see how someone who is strapped for time or mind space – a parent or a CEO – might be inclined to use Amazon Dash. Will be interested to see how this product performs!
Great post, Jack. Media companies, like the BBC, are towing such a fine line between quality content and content that will engage our ever-shortening attention spans. The issue of low-quality content and fake news are top of mind after the US election. A recent BuzzFeed News Analysis found that the 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites generated more shares, reactions, and comments than the 20 top-performing election stories from legitimate news sites. As an important non-partisan news source, I hope the BBC can find creative ways to capture and hold the attention of millennials.
Great article, thanks! I agree that beacon technology has some cool applications, but think that the wi-fi, bluetooth, and location service enabled app requirements are a bit of a stretch. I believe there are some beacon technology companies that no longer require wi-fi, such as Xone Beacon Network (http://marketingland.com/yext-launches-xone-beacon-network-for-offline-to-online-retargeting-144502). In addition to tracking customer movement, I think beacons provide an interesting opportunity to engage with customers. For example, if a beacon were to pick up a customer lingering in the home decor section at Target, Target could push a coupon for 50% of a picture frame to the customer’s phone.
Great post, Margaret! Your post made me wonder if smart clothing will ever be more than a novelty product. As you mentioned above, Under Armour hasn’t been particularly successful with its initial forays into the space (speed skating suits and electronic shirts). People predominantly use clothes as a form of self-expression, especially outside the active wear industry. Thus, it’s hard for me to imagine choosing to wear a shirt because of its functionality.
I did, however, think the idea of feeding data collected on digital platforms back into product design was very smart. At Eileen Fisher, we often wondered exactly what women did in our clothes. We would design items for particular occasions – a big meeting, a holiday party, a weekend of lounging – but we rarely found out what women really did in our clothes. How did they function, or fail to function, for her needs? If we had found similar ways to follow our customer’s habits and lifestyles, we could have met her needs much more effectively.
Great article, Karyn. Thanks for your insight. I’m curious to hear your take on the effects of traditional GM seeds (those that contain pesticides/insecticides) on biodiversity, water sources, wildlife, and the creation of “super weeds”. My pre-MBA company was a big consumer of cotton, and proponent of organic agriculture. Many of the farmers we worked with had difficulty sourcing non-GM cotton seeds, because so much cross-pollination had occurred. In fact, I suspect that much of the “organic” cotton we purchased, was not truly organic, due to contamination. I’d be curious to hear your interpretation of Dow’s take on this phenomenon. As for the new seeds that are modified to protect plants against extreme weather – do you anticipate similar concerns arising around biodiversity?
Great post, Kelly! In addition to the Comfort One Rinse, am curious how Unilever is trying to affect customer behavior. If the use phase does in fact contribute to 61% of energy emissions, how can Unilever design products that encourage customers to use less water and energy? How can they educate consumers? I am also curious about Unilever’s chemical management goals. I am always astounded by the number of chemicals contained in any hygiene or beauty product at CVS, and wonder how these chemicals affect our water sources in both the production process and use phase. Since Unilever has such a wide variety of products, I am curious how they have infused sustainability into their business practices and supply chain. Are there employees in explicit sustainability functions setting goals and monitoring progress? Or are employees in all business functions required to engage in sustainability work?
Great post, Hannah! I completely agree with you that Nike has a responsibility to influence sustainable practices throughout its entire supply chain. A few years back, Kering did a great Environmental P&L study on Puma, and found that raw materials are by far the greatest impact an apparel company has on the environment. Nike also acknowledges this in its sustainability report: “The materials used in our products – from growing crops to manufacturing finished goods – have the greatest environmental impact in the entire product life cycle, so reducing this impact is among the strongest levers we have for improving our overall environmental performance.” That being said – I am not convinced that they are acting quickly enough in regards to their raw materials. In 2015, only 26% of the cotton used by Nike Inc was organic, recycled, or Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified, and only 17% of polyester purchased by Nike Inc. was recycled. I am curious whether the predominant constraint around converting their materials faster is price or availability.
Nico, great post! I’m a huge fan of Modern Meadow. Another nice benefit of biofabricated leather is the fact that it can be produced in a rectangle, instead of the irregular shape of an animal hide. A huge amount of traditional leather is wasted because of imperfections (ex: big bite) or pattern pieces not fitting onto the irregularly shaped hide. As you mention in your post, biofabricated leather still needs to be tanned. I am curious how, or if, Modern Meadow will try to address the environmental effects of leather tanning, which is quite harmful to the environment. So far, the best attempts I’ve seen to improve the tanning process are:
1) Leather Working Group (LWG) – A multi-stakeholder group that has developed a protocol to assesses the environmental compliance and performance capabilities of leather manufacturers. Basically tanneries are continually audited and rated gold, silver, etc based on their performance. Brands who are part of the group agree to transition a certain % of their leather supply chain over to LWG-certified leather within a few years of joining. You can see what brands are a part of LWG here: http://www.leatherworkinggroup.com/lwg-members.htm
2) Wet-Green – Has developed a plant-based tanning agent that is, supposedly, safe for the environment. The process is Cradle-to-Cradle, which definitely adds some legitimacy. You can check it out here: http://www.c2ccertified.org/products/scorecard/wet-green_obe
Great post, Mary! I also wrote about H&M. We seem to share the view that H&M is coming up with innovative solutions, but is also part of the underlying problem, which is people consuming far too many clothes. You mention in your post that a garment can only be made with 20% recycled fibers. This is not necessarily true anymore, which is a good thing! For a synthetic fiber, like polyester, you can make a garment from 100% recycled fiber. For a natural fiber, like wool, cashmere, or cotton, the fiber length gets shorter each time a garment is recycled. This means, you either need to spin a thicker/coarser yarn, or you need to blend in longer (virgin) fibers, to maintain a comparable yarn quality. This is probably where the 20% statistic comes from. A few companies (ex: Evernu, Lenzing) are also researching how to use recycled cotton pulp (instead of wood pulp) to create a fiber similar to Tencel, which is a bio-based synthetic, created using a closed loop chemical process. No one has found the perfect solution yet, but there’s definitely innovation happening. All that being said – the real problem is way too much consumption.