Forecasting demand for single-period products: A case study in the apparel industry
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The problem considered is that of forecasting demand for single-period products before the period starts. We study this problem for the case of a mail order apparel company that needs to order its products pre-season. The lack of historical demand data implies that other sources of data are needed. Advance order data can be obtained by allowing a selected group of customers to pre-order at a discount from a preview catalogue. Judgments can be obtained from purchase managers or other company experts. In this paper, we compare several existing and new forecasting methods for both sources of data. The methods are generic and can be used in any single-period problem in the apparel or fashion industries. Among the pre-order based methods, a novel 'top-flop' approach provides promising results. For a small group of products from the case company, expert judgment methods perform better than the methods based on advance demand information. The comparative results are obviously restricted to the specific case study, and additional testing is required to determine whether they are valid in general.