Blog: Leonie BarrieApparel sourcing landscape continues to shift

Leonie Barrie | 10 June 2015

The apparel sourcing landscape, with its increasingly complex supply chains and added pressure for faster speed and careful control of costs, continues to shift. But is garment production really moving out of China? What are the pitfalls when switching suppliers? How has the trend towards dual sourcing accelerated? And is reshoring to the UK and US really happening? just-style takes a look in this month’s management briefing.

Hot on the heels of another record financial year and being named one of world's most ethical firms for the fourth time in a row, William E. (Chip) Connor, chairman and CEO of sourcing specialist William E. Connor & Associates Ltd., remains characteristically modest about the company's achievements. But drill down, and he tells just-style the realignment of retail and being "dialled in" to sourcing sensitivities are key pointers for the future.

While most of the top-ten garment supplier countries to the US continued to book gains in April - with double-digit increases seen by Vietnam and Bangladesh - China reported its second decline of the year.

And efforts to win more US sourcing business from Asian countries including Vietnam have seen Guatemala's apparel industry boost its value-added product portfolio and improve response times in the past five years.

In Vietnam, meanwhile, inspections are being carried out at hundreds of small and medium-sized garment and textile factories in a bid to improve safety and working conditions in the sector.

But two weeks of strikes by thousands of Cambodian garment workers at the M&V Manufacturing factory in Phnom Penh are likely to have repercussions across the sector as a whole.

The challenges of introducing new technology into clothing industry supply chains was the subject of a panel discussion at last month’s Texprocess trade fair. And communication, collaboration and change-management are all seen as key to ensuring a successful implementation.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer is planning to improve transparency in its clothing supply chain, as one of a number of measures outlined in its 2015 Plan A sustainability report.

And US apparel giant PVH Corp is eyeing dramatic improvements in its women's jeans business, as first-quarter earnings more than tripled to US$114.1m.

Overall, first quarter revenue forecasts for US apparel retailers fared far worse than earnings expectations – as revealed in just-style’s roundup of the results. But while May proved to be a mixed month for US retailers, most clothing chains were able to book comparable store sales growth.

And in other news, a US$40m lawsuit has been filed against Zara USA over alleged discrimination; Ralph Lauren is among 16 fashion brands being urged to take more responsibility in sourcing the raw material used in their viscose fibres; and Levi Strauss is joining forces with Google to design smart jeans.

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