Asanka Wimalaratna leads the Victoria’s Secret & Pink business —with revenue of over $200 million in 2018—for the Brandix group, a giant global apparel manufacturer headquartered in Colombo. Wimalaratna left a career in private equity and venture capital to join Brandix for a shot at reviving one of its struggling business units, which then had a revenue of $8 million. In eight months, he was entrusted with another business unit that was making $7 million. Four years later, the combined revenue of these two business units had more than quadrupled to $65 million.
When Wimalaratna walked in, the group was averaging lead times of 90 days from customer order to delivery. He led strategies to reduce the lead time to less than 30 days, with the fastest being a week for some priority orders. His success led to more significant responsibilities. Today, the divisions he manages under Brandix Fast Fashion, contributes around a quarter of the group revenue.
“As a group, we are trying to nail the fast-fashion business.”
Wimalaratna believes future success will need much more than innovative products and faster lead times. To evolve to the next stage of growth, apparel manufacturers will need to add value and give their customers products and solutions they can use to win in the marketplace.
“As a group, we are trying to nail the fast-fashion business,” he says. Customers usually place bulk orders based on their own predictions, which manufacturers like Brandix then fulfil. Fashion trends are difficult to predict and shift often, with retailers left with no choice but to offer discounts and promotions to sell the stock, in the process shrinking their anticipated profit margins.
Brandix has partnered Accenture, a global consultancy with specialities in tech, to use AI and machine learning tools to better predict consumer trends based on storefront sales data, and generate weekly or monthly purchase plans for fashion retailers. Instead of ordering bulk for the entire season, retailers can make multiple orders of small quantities.
Brandix will manufacture and deliver each order within a week or ten days— half the current average lead time. Retail brands could halve their mark-down costs, he believes. “This will give retailers a better chance to sell the product at a higher price, earning higher margins. If this works, then we can work on margin sharing,” Wimalaratna says. “It’s a powerful solution that would take the industry to the next level.”