Siemens PLM was lead, “Platinum Plus” sponsors of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) Executive Summit this week in Washington, D.C. The event was a high level gathering of the elite in apparel & footwear, so we were thrilled to be a part of it. There was a political flair to the festivities, with multiple politicians taking the stage and giving very interesting, thought-provoking speeches – see this link for more information on the event, including the agenda: http://www.apparelandfootwear.org/annualsummit.html . These presentations were intermixed with industry hot button issues like the rapid inflation of cotton (how will this affect consumer prices later in 2011?), China (still a major sourcing hub; how will rapidly rising wages affect this?), and social networking. I’d like to focus for a minute on the latter as I think there is still so much opportunity to leverage social media in the apparel and retail industry. Particularly around integrating it into the product development process, to truly enable open innovation.
I was privileged to introduce two esteemed speakers for the opening event presentation on social networking: Jon Kubo, CIO from teen retailer The Wet Seal, and Michael Haines, Regional VP from Facebook. While Facebook continues to capitalize on the need for retailers to maintain close connection with customers, there are few examples of retailers who have successfully moved their social networking efforts from marketing and branding focused, to connecting their efforts with mobility, and e-commerce. Wet Seal, under the direction of Mr. Kubo since 2005, launched their “Fashion Community” site in 2008, which as of last year generated 20% of e-commerce revenues. In other words, they’ve been able to leverage social networking to make money. See more on Wet Seal’s approach here: http://www.stores.org/STORES%20Magazine%20October%202010/wet-seal-approval