Blog: Leonie BarrieA year of challenges and opportunities

Leonie Barrie | 19 January 2015

One of the most popular reports published on just-style each year is our annual briefing on apparel industry issues to watch in the year ahead. And for 2015 we have again asked leading executives for their feedback on the challenges and opportunities likely to emerge. Expect a continuing focus on compliance and factory safety, ongoing challenges in omni-channel, the need for new supply chain solutions - and much more besides.

How is the sourcing landscape likely to shift in 2015, and what strategies can help apparel firms and their suppliers to stay ahead? China is seen moving higher up the value chain, and near-shoring is likely to make small inroads, but improving productivity and building long-term vendor relationships are seen as key.

When it comes to other issues the apparel industry should be keeping a close eye on, compliance and factory safety, macroeconomic headwinds, trade legislation, and consumer confidence are all cited as likely to have a bearing on whether or not 2015 turns out to be better than 2014.

One of the biggest challenges - and opportunities - facing the apparel industry in 2015 is how best to embrace the omni-channel retail model, improve the shopping experience, and respond with new supply chain solutions. The changing profile of consumers in Asia is also likely to impact consumption and production, while global compliance and factory safety will continue to be a focal point.

What key strengths and strategies are helping retailers to take the lead? Building fully integrated and flexible supply chains, with an end-to-end focus on ethics and responsibility will help to separate the winners from the losers in 2015.

Another highlight on just-style last week was the publication of a brand new and exclusive report produced by the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA). The research offers essential reading for retailers, brands and importers looking to source from Myanmar, whose garment sector is in the midst of significant growth and exciting changes that have seen export revenues surge to at least US$1.5bn in 2014.

But renewed political tensions and violence in Bangladesh in the first week of this year may dent investor confidence in the country and raise risks to growth in the key ready-made garment (RMG) sector, a leading credit ratings firm has warned.
On the other hand, factory inspection results in Bangladesh improved gradually in 2014 as brands pushed for higher standards.

Japanese retailer Fast Retailing has pledged to improve working conditions at its supplier factories in China, following allegations of "harsh and dangerous" working conditions at two manufacturers making clothes for its Uniqlo brand.

When it comes to the latest technologies and trends in the retail sector, look no further than the National Retail Federation's 104th Annual Convention & Expo that took place in New York last week. We highlight some of the latest launches and developments, and the general consensus that retailers still need to do more to meet consumer expectations online.

Indeed, despite the hype, the internet is having an "insignificant' impact on the garment trade, according to Mike Flanagan. While every clothing brand and retailer uses the web for moving, receiving and monitoring information, relatively few clothes are sold this way.

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