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JustFab finds managing inventories is both science and art

Companies have more analytics about consumer behavior, but clothing sellers say there is judgment behind the numbers

Some fashion retail specialists say the industry needs to make better use of analytics, but supply chain experts say art and judgment shouldn’t be discounted. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

By LORETTA CHAO
July 1, 2015 10:34 a.m. ET
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Is figuring out what products consumers will want an art or a science?

This is increasingly up for debate as the ability of companies to see into consumer trends based on a wide range of indicators, from the weather to social media chatter, is growing. With ever-expanding data available to buyers about consumer behavior, gauging what consumers want and how to plan inventory is becoming easier even without years of experience or carefully honed taste, executives say.

“There’s definitely a community out there that thinks this is all art, that there’s no way you can use analytics to help,” said Molham Aref, CEO of analytics firm Predictix LLC. But “we’ve seen retailers get exasperated with that” view.

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