For most non-time-sensitive goods like fabric, transporting by air is often not economical. Typically, air freight is 4-5 times more expensive than road transport, and 12-16 times more than sea transport.
However, high street brands like H&M, Gap and Topshop are increasingly opting for air freight to ensure that they have the right items available on the shelves at the right time. In general, fast-fashion brands aim to renew their collections almost every week, making other forms of freight impossible. Crucially for the brands in question, the garments also arrive at stores in better condition than they otherwise would, and delivery using air cargo is far more reliable.
The ability to have a high turnover of stock allows retailers to gather data on what particular trend is in mode and use that information to inform decisions as to what style to buy the next time.
Some freight forwarders have now begun to specialise in fashion delivery. Companies such as Logwin provide retailers with services and even packaging solutions tailored for the fashion industry. This way, big retailers can design, manufacture and get clothing onto store shelves in a month. If they decide to go for sea freight, the whole process would last two or three weeks more.