Fashion is Facing Mountains of Unsold Inventory—Is the Pre-Order Model a Viable Fix? – Vogue

Because everything Romy makes is organic and naturally-dyed—a process that can take a few weeks to complete—she settled on a six-to-eight week window for her pre-orders. “People who understand that good things take time are willing to wait,” she says. “There’s an interesting shift in consumer demand happening now, as people look at their lives and what they really need.” Other brands will have to contend with that shift as they work to avoid excess stock, whether it’s by adopting a pre-order model or adjusting how often they produce new collections. “With pre-order and custom orders, you can minimize a lot of waste, because you’re only getting what the customer needs. You aren’t sitting down and realizing you have all this extra and need to hold onto it for a year, and then do a sample sale, when the value might not even be the same… It’s amazing that brands are recognizing it can be done in a different way.”

“If I could literally do everything on pre-order, I would,” Cora Hilts, the founder of Rêve en Vert, adds. “I think it’s such an incredibly powerful tool for teaching consumers to wait and to be more patient. I don’t think you order things as off-the-cuff if you know you have to wait a month for them.” She’s exploring pre-order opportunities with other labels, like Bali-based Indigo Luna, which makes activewear using natural fibers and botanical dyes. Over the past few weeks, demand for Indigo Luna’s leggings and sports bras exploded as more people began exercising at home, and its small factory struggled to keep up with production. Indonesia is also experiencing major shipping delays, so initial timeframes were further delayed by a few weeks. “We offered refunds to customers if they didn’t want to wait,” Hilts says. “But not a single person has canceled their order—in fact, they’re saying they’re going to come back and keep supporting the brand. It filled me with the confidence that when you reach consumers on a human level, and you explain why things are delayed and how brands are taking care of their workers, nobody is awful about it. We’re lucky to have exceptional customers, but it was a really good example of people choosing to wait.”

It also highlights that when we feel good about who we’re supporting and where we’re spending our money, we’re likely to be more sympathetic to those little inconveniences. Perhaps it comes down to trust; I personally know the women behind Dôen, but even if I didn’t, I’d hardly expect their little label to function like a slick corporation. I’d rather wait a bit longer for something I feel great about than receive an item in two days that’s of dubious quality. Of course, these shipping delays will eventually subside, and the pre-order model might not work for everyone—but let’s at least hope our newfound patience sticks with us.

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