The UK-based George at Asda clothing brand remains committed to sourcing in Bangladesh, even though at least 112 workers were killed in a factory fire last year while illegally subcontracted to produce clothing for parent company Wal-Mart.

Speaking to just-style today (21 February), Andrew Moore, chief merchandising officer for general merchandise at Asda and George, said the retailer plans to stay in Bangladesh, partly because it's the "right thing to do", but also because it has invested heavily in developing lean manufacturing in the country.

He said the programme gives the company a "real head start in working with factory owners out there, coaching them, educating them, bringing the practices that exist in other countries and taking them to Bangladesh".

Moore said parent company Wal-Mart has issued new supplier standards and that George would be working within those rules, but that its standards were already "in-line" with them.

He described how the company is working to "dial up" direct sourcing following its acquisition of the sourcing arm of Turkish supplier GAAT last year. He said the group has nearly completed its integration into the business. 

He added that the key to making the acquisition work is not leaving it as a standalone sourcing business, but to fully integrate it.

The company now has 250 people based around the world to help it source directly and 70 designers producing for the brand, which are helping to "keep costs down".

"When you think about what buying and development used to be, it used to be a three legged stool - buying, merchandising, quality and design. Now it's buying, merchandising, quality and design, and souring.

"It's that sourcing process - working with the buyers, working with the merchandisers through the decision process to ensure we've got much more confidence around delivery and quality," he told just-style.

The company also sees availability, particularly in basics, as key to its success. As part of this, it has invested almost GBP20m in JDA's assortment and merchandise planning tool AMS, which it is in the process of integrating into its systems.

Additionally, the company revealed plans to have the George brand present in 24 markets by the end of September, driven primarily through online expansion.

The brand, currently available in the UK, Middle East, Japan, Chile, Canada and the Channel Islands, will expand online delivery across continental Europe to 24 countries by the end of the third quarter.

Moore said the group is also in talks to take the line to Wal-Mart's South African banner Massmart, both distributing and manufacturing in the country.

Asda today recorded a full-year like-for-like sales increase of 1%, rising 0.1% over the quarter ended 5 January. Moore said the George brand had a "record year" for sales, profit and market share.