By Andrew Leighton | 21 August 2018

At the tender age of four, I rode a bike for the first time; which didn’t go without its tantrums. I fell down, kicked, and screamed, I even threw my bike on the floor, until I had finally mastered the pedals.

Now, at the ripe old age of forty (something), I still kick, and I still throw my bike on the floor. But I ride my bike three times a week, travelling 80 miles, and I love it!

The best way to test something works is to simply have a go.

So, it follows that the best way to test a strategic sourcing tool is… to use it to build a sourcing strategy.

In this post we’ll put re:source through its paces - with a five minute deadline to create a sourcing strategy - and yes, I’ll be timing myself as I go. I’ll be using the full version of re:source to do this exercise but I will include links to the same pages in our live demo of re:source so you can follow my progress.

Are you ready? Then let’s get going!

Choosing the garment(s) to source

Let’s start off by picking a garment. After firing up re:source I go into Product Finder and select gender: men’s; material: cotton; and product: pants/trousers. In other words, men’s cotton trousers. So that I can easily repeat this selection again, I click on the ‘pin’ icon next to the most recent search in my search history (the one I just ran) so that it will stay in my list of most recent searches ready to be run again until I decide to unpin it.

re:source brings back two HS6 codes: 610342 and 620342. Reading the descriptions (and understanding some basic knowledge about HS codes with knitted apparel products beginning with 61 and woven with 62), I recognise 620342 as the relevant HS code for my chosen product, which includes men’s chino pants. So far, so good - but there’s a lot more to do. Time taken so far - 9 seconds.

Who’s making them?

The next thing we need to know is which sourcing countries are potentially in the running to make my men’s cotton trousers.

A good place to start looking at where to source from is to find a list of countries that produce men’s chinos. To do this I go into Data Finder within the Trade tool to search for some trade data.

I go straight in and enter 620342 in the search term text box - and hit search.

Wow, re:source has found data - but over 4,500 rows of it!

But don’t worry, using the search filters we can rein things in.

Firstly, what’s my import market? Ah yes, it’s the European Union. Also, do I need all ten years’ worth of historic data? Not at the moment, so I use the slider to limit the data to the years 2014-2016. That’s 211 results; much better. Search pinned. Export button pressed. Time spent, 24 seconds.

Great, I’ve now got a spreadsheet containing a list of 170 countries that have exported men’s chinos during the last three years. Sorting it for 2016, it tells me the top six by value are:

  • Bangladesh

  • Turkey

  • Pakistan

  • China

  • Germany

  • Tunisia.

If I exclude all EU countries (they are in the stats because some items are re-imported through Europe e.g. goods arrive in Rotterdam, but then are sent on to Felixstowe), Germany swaps out and India joins the top six.

Ok, this data is interesting. Let’s start to narrow it down and take out some outliers. The EU countries can go first. Then, let’s remove any countries with a value less than US$10m as I’m planning on placing a substantial order and I need suppliers that can handle quantity.

With the 27 countries left, I add a growth rate calculation (one divided by the 2014 value multiplied by the 2016 value minus one, then formatted as a percentage) and sort by who’s growing quickest. Interesting. Only these have grown over the three-year period:

  • Myanmar

  • Mexico

  • Pakistan

  • Madagascar

  • Bangladesh.

So Bangladesh and Pakistan are the only two large-volume exporters that are growing. I decide to create my own shortlist from the two lists to investigate further, those being:

  • Bangladesh

  • Turkey

  • Pakistan

  • Myanmar

  • Mexico.

My stopwatch tells me that my efforts so far have taken 124 seconds.

What about import duties?

What’s next on my strategy tick-list? Oh yes, tariff rates. Let’s put my HS code in Tariff Finder now and export the data.

Excellent! All five of my targets are duty-free to the EU, saving me 12% on duties. This is probably why these countries are increasing their exports to the EU. Here’s where you could make a note to later show your boss all the countries with duty-free.

After quickly scanning through the countries in the Tariff Finder search results list, re:source tells me that Bangladesh and Myanmar are all members of the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement, Turkey is in the EU-Med Partnership and Customs Union, Pakistan in GSP+ and Mexico has its own agreement with the EU. I’d have no chance of remembering that on my own.

So, in order to understand which countries fit our needs, let’s take a look at the rules of origin in re:source (found in the trade agreement profiles) for each exporting country.

Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan are subject to ‘cut and sew’ rules, which means that fibres, yarns and fabrics may be produced in any country, but cutting and sewing of the finished apparel garments must be formed within the free trade area.

Turkey and Mexico fall under ‘fabric-forward’ rules, which means that fibres and yarns may be produced anywhere, but each component starting with the fabric used to make the apparel garments must be formed within the free trade area.

We’ll use our existing fabric suppliers in this example; none are based in Mexico or Turkey so their trade agreements rule out these two countries straight away.

That leaves us with just Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan. All three are growing their exports of men’s chinos and they’re all duty-free with favourable rules of origin. I took my time reading the rules of origin so the timer is now at 189 seconds, or just over three minutes.

But which country to choose?

It’s time for more digging.

Sourcing criteria

Now we have whittled the list down to just three countries it’s time to apply some more detailed sourcing metrics to each country to see which one will meet my criteria.

Let’s use re:source’s sourcing criteria tool to compare my short-listed countries across various criteria.

Bangladesh is equal to or better than Myanmar and Pakistan on all but production quality - Pakistan is just ahead with that. Let’s take a look at some other stats in their country profiles. For a time saver, I used the countries listing page to choose some relevant key metrics:

Countries listing page - re:source

Est. number of garment factories Garment worker wage (US$ per month) Ease of doing business rank Trade union violation score (1 good - 6 bad) Time at sea to European Union Cut and make cost (US$ beta data)
Bangladesh 5000 68-168 177 5 23 days 1.21
Myanmar 330 73-85 171 4 24 days 1.55
Pakistan 740 116-125 147 5 18 days 1.27

So Bangladesh is cheapest and has most factories, but carries most risk and is not the quickest to source from. Given Pakistan is high on production quality and slightly quicker, it’s definitely in the running. I’ll stop the timer here - at just under four minutes. As I’m very familiar with the product I’ll allow another minute for a newbie to complete the same exercise - which even then happily sits within our five minute deadline.


I’ll recommend to my sourcing team that we choose Bangladesh for the bulk of our basic products order, but visit Myanmar to compare as a possible future sourcing destination. For our higher quality products we should target Pakistan, and so I’ll recommend a visit there too.

To back my research up, I will include Bangladesh’s and Pakistan’s strengths from their re:source profiles in my presentation slides for the next meeting:

Pakistan’s strengths:

  • Abundant labour force

  • Vertical industry, from production of raw materials to fabric and fashion

  • World's fourth largest cotton producer; also produces man-made fibres domestically

  • FOB prices remain well below world average

  • Partnering with ILO to improve productivity and compliance

  • Has benefited from GSP+ duty-free access to EU markets since 2014

  • US$500m worth of infrastructure, energy and industrial projects were signed with China in May 2017

Bangladesh’s strengths:

  • Abundant labour

  • Accounts for 9.7% of world garment exports

  • Apparel makes up 82% of Bangladeshi exports

  • Minimum wages amongst lowest in world at US$68 per month

  • All garment factories being inspected for building and electrical safety

  • Exports to EU duty-free under the Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement

  • The second cheapest supplier of apparel to the EU

  • Emerging as a leading denim and jeans hub

  • Investments in spinning and knitting machinery improving backward linkages

  • Factories being modernised with new machinery and better management practices

  • Efforts to improve working conditions through the ILO Better Work Bangladesh programme


And that’s it - in just five minutes I have identified the sourcing countries we should be visiting in our next sourcing trip with solid justifications behind each one.

Why not put re:source to the test yourself right now with our live demo?

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