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[Video Available NOW] Dean's Distinguished Industry Lecture Series | Management of Fashion Business under the "New Normal"

The first lecture of the Dean’s Distinguished Industry Lecture Series was given on 23 November by a well respected ally and supporter of ITC, Ms Shirley Chan, BBS, JP, Vice Chairman of YGM Trading Ltd.; Chairlady of the Advisory Committee on Textile and Clothing Industries of PolyU; and PolyU Council member. Her session, "Management of Fashion Business under the New Normal” attracted an attendance of nearly 150 staff, students and alumni. In response to the social distance restrictions, the talk was organised in a hybrid live format in the ITC 4D Theatre and streamed on Zoom and the ITC Youtube channel.


In his opening remarks, Prof. Jintu Fan, Chair Professor and Head of ITC said, " We are so fortunate to have Ms Shirley Chan as our first speaker of the Dean’s Distinguished Industry Lecture Series to share her invaluable insights with PolyU staff, students and alumni, enabling us to broaden our  horizons and keep abreast of the latest developments in the industry."

Faculty Dean Prof. Wing-tak Wong (left) presents certificate to Ms Chan.

The pandemic has brought about many challenges in all aspects of life. Daily and social activities have been suspended and cities are shut down. Ms Chan suggested that several phenomena have emerged in the "new normal", including e-learning, virtual exhibitions, virtual fashion shows and digital workplaces. "In the fashion industry, sales dropped dramatically and retail stores closed all over the world from January to July 2020. The highest decline was in March. There have been no signs of things picking up because there are no tourists and locals are working from home, and therefore dressing down.” said Ms Chan.

According to UBS Analysis, 24,000 fashion and apparel stores in the USA will be closed by 2025. Ms Chan stated that “It will lead to the cancellation of garment orders by US and EU buyers.”

Nevertheless, Ms Chan reminds us that challenges can also present new opportunities at the same time. "On the bright side, e-commerce sales have increased significantly…In Hong Kong, projected online sales increased by 13.4% in 2020. In China, online sales increased by 22% in the first quarter of 2020, and 34% in the second quarter." To support the continued growth of e-commerce, various portals and apps have been developed. New concepts such as video shopping is now popular in China. Ms Chan however feels that brick and mortar stores can evolve: “Still, physical stores play a role but need to be re-invented. The fashion journey remains a multiple channel that consists of online and offline platforms. Thus, online-to-offline (O2O) shopping, customer relationship management (CRM), big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) have become more crucial in the fashion industry.” All these trends help to nurture sales leads, enhance personalization, and increase efficiency of business processes and engagement. Companies are striving to stay ahead of their competitors and better market their products in the industry.

In 2019, the GDP of the China Greater Bay Area was USD 1.6 trillion. McKinsey & Company predicts that by 2023, the top GDP growth will be found in the China Greater Bay Area. Ms Chan suggested that Hong Kong can take advantage of the growth: “This is the opportunity from the Belt and Road for us. Hong Kong can strengthen its “super-connector” role in textile and clothing by facilitating sustainable trade and development, providing cumulative knowledge in different aspects, acting as a distributing hub by exporting apparel products produced from the Belt and Road countries, and setting up factories in the Belt and Road countries.” Ms Chan advised the attendees to "Look beyond Hong Kong. Grasp the opportunities."

Ms Chan concluded that Hong Kong has long been a major hub for global fashion. "We have the cumulative knowledge, a variety of favourable policies and funds introduced by the government, well-established education institutions, as well as fashion incubation in Mainland China." She reminded the students and alumni to venture beyond Hong Kong for more exciting opportunities.