Dover Digital Printing (DDP – Downers Grove, Illinois), the international group that includes MS Printing Solutions, Caldera Software and Kiian Digital, has released a new 11-page whitepaper that explores the effects COVID-19 has had on the textile/apparel industry, while revealing how digitizing the manufacturing process offers enhanced sustainability as well as a new way forward. It said that, as consumer demand for new clothing fell because people were no longer going to schools, offices and events, the already strained supply chain infrastructure became more fragile. Although online sales held, and a return of retail buying is expected over the coming months, the experience has revealed a broken business model, the report added.
“The problem was already apparent before the pandemic hit sales. The drive towards fast fashion, steep discounting and high retail rents had already created an industry that was teetering on the brink. The pandemic resulted in a high number of fashion retailer bankruptcies, but the majority of these businesses were already floundering before COVID-19 hit. As larger and larger proportions of company’s collections were sold at discount, gross margins across the industry started to fall. This put pressure on textile suppliers and manufacturers to create items at the lowest sustainable levels. In other words, there was no slack to give when the pandemic wreaked further chaos.” The first half of the report also revealed that demand has shrunk, consumer-buying habits have changed and there’s a growing preference for greater sustainability. The DDP whitepaper proposes a solution to the problems now facing the textile industry. It identifies compelling reasons why digital printing of textiles is going to play a much larger role in fashion moving forward, and why this trend will result in compressed production times and supply chains. “The additional value of digital printing is its ability to increase the number of versions in a collection, and to offer just-in-time to respond to changes in demand,” it concluded. “This dramatically reduces the need for discounting, which in turn reduces waste. Any reduction in unsold inventory is a win in terms of sustainability, as is digital printing’s substantially lower water demand and its contribution towards keeping production operations within domestic national borders.”
“Despite the short-term challenges in the market, Dover is continuing to support investments, and expanding resources and capabilities in digital printing platforms and customer service,” said Abhi Agrawal, President of Dover Digital Printing. “As the market continues to evolve and adapt to the shifting consumer and fashion trends, finding a new business model is key to taking or keeping a competitive business advantage.” In other words, digital printing is a key tool to reduce the excessive discounting business model and put high and added value back into apparel.