Japanese apparel companies hit by the new coronavirus pandemic have been tapping artificial intelligence technology to boost sagging sales, using it to predict the designs and colors that will come into trend.

One provider of such technology is Tokyo-based startup Neural Pocket Inc., which runs a system that automatically collects massive data related to clothing on various fashion websites, Instagram and other social networking services to analyze day-to-day changes in trends.

The company predicts the next hit products by analyzing data on colors, designs and length of clothing.

Supplied image shows a system that automatically picks up data on clothing from photos posted on social media to analyze fashion trends. (Photo courtesy of Neural Pocket Inc.)(Kyodo)

Such an approach using AI technology is new in the apparels industry, which generally relies on the experience and instinct of designers in predicting new trends.

But as the new coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on retailers, demand is growing to efficiently predict the next items in fashion.

Neural Pocket said in April its analysis has discovered a change in trend colors amid mounting concerns over the new coronavirus pandemic. Its data suggested that clothing in whitish colors, which are known to give a sense of security, were emerging to be popular.

The firm has tied up with an apparel group company of major retailer Aeon Co. to support its development of new items for the upcoming fall and winter season.

Another AI venture Sensy Inc. has developed a software that analyzes data collected at "point of sale," or the place where customers make payments for products or services at stores, including information such as customers' past purchases and frequency of visits.

Sensy provides such consumer spending data to TSI Holdings Co. and other major apparel operators, which will then utilize the data to optimize staff allocation at stores and develop new products.

"The apparel industry as a whole is becoming increasing conscious of costs due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic," said Sensy CEO Yuki Watanabe.

Zozo Inc., operator of major online clothing store Zozotown, said it began using AI technology in June to automatically list up customers to whom it will send sales promotion mails after analyzing things such as past purchases and tastes.

"We hope (such mails) will efficiently contribute to actual purchases of the products," said Ryuji Noguchi, a senior official at Zozo Technologies Inc.

The new coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing declaration of the state of emergency from April to May in Japan have caused temporary closures of apparel stores. Many customers remain cautious of visiting shops due to fears of virus infections, according to a department store industry group.

Consulting firm Roland Berger Ltd. estimates that sales of the domestic apparel industry in 2020 will fall up to 30 percent from a year earlier.

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