The UK apparel and textile industry has launched aninitiative aimed at closing the UK’s trade gap with other countries. Currently, the UK hasa £2.5 billion ($4 billion) apparel and £1.2 billion ($1.92 billion) textiles tradedeficit. The Apparel and Textile Challenge (ATC) aims to stabilize, and ultimatelyreverse, the trend of imports by developing a more effective UK manufacturer-retailersupply chain.

The ATC was started in 1995 and has alreadyachieved some of its aims of forming and developing partnerships between suppliers andretailers. In fact, retailers representing 50 per cent of all consumer sales in the UKhave already taken part in ATC related activities. There was a 50 per cent increase inretailer involvement during 1996/7 compared with 1995/6.

ATC has launched the Partnership for Profitprogram with initial funding from the Department for Trade & Industry (DTI). As aconsequence, 300 executives have received training in supply chain partnership principles,leading to their adoption and implementation back in the work-place. Ten companies haveagreed to take this program in house. Promotion of the supply chain partnership philosophyhas also been made through presentations to trade organizations representing themanufacturing base.

ATC has also been working to identifytechnologies which can be promoted and driven centrally for the commercial benefit of thewhole industry, for example, open and simple EDI solutions and inter-connectivity ofdesign systems, as with the Product Development Partnership (see page 3). Thesetechnologies are aimed at improving product development lead time which will lead to morerapid UK replenishment at lower processing costs.

Ken Watson is director of the ATC andbrings 25 years of international experience in the retail, clothing and textile trade tohis task. He comments, "It has been demonstrated that supply chain partnerships anduse of Economic Consumer Response (ECR) favor suppliers who are closer to market and bestable to understand and react to customer demand. Research shows that an ECR approachresults in sales increases of five per cent, reduction of inventory in the supply chain of30 per cent, and increased stock turn of 50 per cent."

ATC calculates that a five per centincrease in sales of UK sourced product would reduce the trade deficit by 25 per cent.Were the UK’s most powerful retailers to lead a five per cent switch in sourcing, thetrade deficit would be halved.

For further information contact:

The Apparel Textile Challenge Office,
5 Portman Place,
London W1N 3AA, UK
Tel No: +44 (0)171 636 7788
Fax No: +44 (0)171 636 7515