Tommy Hilfiger Sample Reduction: a surprising accelerator

What makes a sample reduction strategy really effective? Is the cost reduction? Is to avoid textile waste? Is the adoption of digital solutions? There are many ways of doing ...

What makes a sample reduction strategy really effective? Is the cost reduction? Is to avoid textile waste? Is the adoption of digital solutions? There are many ways of doing sample management and reducing textile waste in process. And all starts with a mindset change.

Changing what's never been changed

When Tommy Hilfiger started rolling out digital showrooms back in 2014, it quickly became clear this was not just a new digital tool. It was a change management initiative. Tommy Hilfiger relied on physical samples to conduct its wholesale selling operations. Samples had enabled the company's growth for almost 2 decades. How could we remove samples without harming the business? This was not a wholesale digitization project. This was a digital transformation project. This is how Tommy Hilfiger Sample Reduction Plan accelerated its business

A digital "Tommy Twist"

From design to end consumers, the fashion value chain has historically been driven by craftsmanship and manpower. Digitizing this process is a challenge we are all facing as an industry, but where to start? Many argue it's best to start at the beginning of the value chain, with design. While this makes sense for many, it's not a one-solution-fits-all answer.

Tommy Hilfiger's unique approach is a great example of this. While others started the journey with 3D design, Tommy Hilfiger started by digitizing its wholesale sell-in business with the Digital Showroom and expanded outwards from there to 3D and consumers. The surprising thing is that all these initiatives are all in a mature state of digitization, despite having started at different times. How is this possible? To understand this, we need to first understand the relationship between the Digital Showroom and its sample reduction mission with the company's digital transformation.

Seeing opportunities where others see risks

Back in 2014 with Tommy Hilfiger, samples had become the topic of every project meeting. The risks posed by not having them were far too big (and scary) to even consider an experience without them. Many would have stopped right there, but they decided to keep moving ahead. They took all the learnings from these first steps and set themselves up for the challenge, not by digitizing the wholesale journey, but by creating a new and improved sell-in experience. Instead of focusing on the risks, Tommy Hilfiger decided to focus on the opportunities. The Digital Showroom was no longer a solution to reduce samples, but a new way of selling. One that made it so much better for sellers and buyers that they would ultimately need fewer samples.

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This combined approach of change management and modern tech product development principles has been bringing value to the organization to this day. Sample reduction, once a taboo has now become a major enabler for the entire business. Here are some of the biggest gains sample reduction brought to Tommy:

  • More elevated sell-in experience

Producing fewer samples made Tommy focus on how to tell its story better and how to bring more emotion into the digital world. Preparation became paramount for merchandisers and marketers that started working closer together and this helped sales teams create better proposals. Customers did struggle at first, but they quickly embraced the Digital Showroom. The improved visibility on the collection and the story behind it meant they could create better, more accurate buys in half the time.

  • Faster time to market

With this new approach, marketing and merchandising started collaborating earlier to create B2B content. Marketing consequently had more time to create relevant and cohesive campaigns from buyers to consumers. This approach made it more appealing for buyers to buy into items traditionally "pushed" by the brand as they now got better context around them. Appointments could now be more focused, reducing the time needed to see the collection by as much as 50%. On top of this, it also meant more streamlined buys across customers which allowed factories to produce collections with more efficiency and on time.

Embrace a new digital mindset 

The Digital Showroom transformed how the entire organization perceived digitization. It made everyone realize they could create a better experience using the power of digital. If wholesale could sell better without samples, why couldn't they challenge the status quo? And so the digital revolution had started. 

Tommy Hilfiger is continuously improving its digital game. And overcoming the risk of reducing samples has proven to be one of the American lifestyle brand's all-time wins, but not the only one. From "See Now Buy Now" to Roblox fashion shows in the NYFW,  the digital transformation is an ongoing successful project for the brand.

More resources? No.

Better technology? Not necessarily.

What then? A strong digital mindset.