A faster supply chain may also mean long-term savings

A faster supply chain may also mean long-term savings

The hot topic of "reshoring" or "nearshoring" - returning the sourcing of fashion and textile products to the western hemisphere - continues to generate a buzz. But what's in it for brands and retailers looking to make the move? 

Faced with rising costs and long lead times in Asia, along with political uncertainty and unrest in many garment producing countries in the region, there's a growing trend for US brands and retailers to investigate options closer to home.

Among the benefits of sourcing in the Americas are short-supply distances, free trade agreements and turnaround times as fast as one to three weeks.

A faster supply chain may also mean long-term savings for brands, as producers can slim down their inventory, minimise the risk of markdowns, yet also respond quickly to changes in sales. And for products made domestically there is also the added momentum of campaigns championing the 'Made-in-US' label.

Mike Todaro, managing director of the Americas Apparel Producers' Network (AAPN), not surprisingly believes: "The Americas are here to stay in sourcing.

"There are big wins for brands who leverage the region for what it does best," he told just-style earlier this year, adding that strengths of the Americas are "speed, proximity, total cost, stability."

Producers know the US customer better. 2D and 3D technology have made this a level playing field now. Lean teams have optimised factories. There are expanding fabric palettes.

"We have factories proposing completely priced, rapid replenishment, fast-selling collections to surprised product developers because the factory has become the great problem solver in the chain. On top of that, social responsibility leadership is a new opportunity. There's a core of brands who are making money sourcing in the Americas."

A new AAPN position statement contends that sourcing in the US and Americas can be "easier, faster, safer and better."

"Sure, if you want to source huge quantities; and you know what will sell way in advance; and you are not worried about flexibility; and you just want cheap; then there are plenty of mega-factories in the world that will take your orders," Todaro proclaims.

"But if you are looking for a more flexible sourcing model, one that better aligns with today's fickle, hyper-connected, want-it-my-way-consumer, then you need to look to the Americas." Here, he says, is why:

"We know some people like 16 hour flights and late night conference calls. You will have to give those up to work in the Americas. Most factories in the Americas have at least a six-hour time zone overlap with your office. 'American' English is spoken and easily understood. Face-to-face meetings are quick to arrange, fast to reach and simple to understand."

"The Americas are not just faster because of proximity, although ocean transit times of under a week are nice. The Americas are faster because it's easier to collaborate, and the better you collaborate the faster you get. The Americas are faster because the factories are smaller and they can react more quickly. Our members built an activewear supply chain city, producing yarn, fabric, factory and trim all within minutes of one another, giving you access to some of the fastest market speeds possible."

"When it comes to sustainability, worker safety, environmental stewardship, factory compliance and social responsibility, many members of the AAPN have a significant competitive advantage. One factory's social programmes cut turnover, training costs and absenteeism meaning better skills, more flexibility, consistent quality and faster cycle times."

"At the AAPN we believe that easier, faster and safer adds up to better. Better because you can get more sell-through when you can order closer to the demand and do fewer blind buys. Better when you can get duty free imports without risking your company's reputation in countries with poor compliance history. Better because you can spend less time on the plane and more time doing your job."