Blog: Leonie BarrieAll change in Ralph Lauren's supply chain

Leonie Barrie | 13 June 2016

An overhaul of its supply chain is at the heart of restructuring plans revealed last week by Ralph Lauren's newly-appointed CEO Stefan Larsson, including a new test pipeline, shorter lead times, reduced inventory and a focus on fewer styles and more on-trend merchandise. The luxury retailer is also set to close more than 50 stores and slash its workforce by around 8%.

To support the changes, the company is also strengthening its leadership team – including the addition of Coach's chief financial officer and a new head of supply chain from Amazon.

Marks & Spencer has published its first supply chain map for clothing, showing where its products are made on an interactive map detailing nearly 700 suppliers. The report is part of the retailer's ethical commitments detailed in its first Plan A update under new CEO Steve Rowe.

But top apparel brands and retailers including Gap Inc, Burberry, Inditex and JC Penney are failing to deliver on cotton sustainability, a new report has found, with only a few doing the heavy lifting on responsible sourcing.

A new Better Buying initiative is being planned to eliminate the barriers to code of conduct compliance caused by apparel buyers' purchasing practices. Writing on just-style last week, the scheme's co-founder Dr Marsha Dickson explains why data and transparency will inform buyers about the challenges they are placing on suppliers – and enable them to track improvements over time.

The need for cooperation and dialogue throughout the supply chain to achieve tangible results and long-lasting improvements in human rights, environment and trade policy was also highlighted at the Foreign Trade Association's inaugural Sustainability Conference.

Two new software platforms are also tackling supply chain transparency. The first, which shares compliance information on factories around the world, has been upgraded to provide new tools to improve corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The second helps track and trace garments and the materials and components used to make them, taking the sector closer to a closed loop supply chain.

Apparel imports into the US rebounded in April, with shipments from China – the largest supplier of apparel to the US – surging to double-digit gains. But Bangladesh and Vietnam reported unexpected declines from the year before.

While there's no doubt China faces a number of challenges, ranging from slowing economic growth to growing retail competition, Mike Flanagan continues to believe that no other apparel supplier countries are ready to exploit the opportunities. Here he explains why.

Mexico, meanwhile, is being urged to overhaul a newly expanded set of import reference prices that US apparel makers say are hampering trade, causing delays and blocking much-needed fabric imports at a time when the country continues to lose market share to Vietnam and Central America.

And Canada is gearing up to host the country's first apparel and textile sourcing event, which is scheduled to take place in Toronto in August.

DHL Express is to open its largest facility in Myanmar to cater to growth in sectors such as garment manufacturing.

And world cotton consumption is likely to remain depressed by low polyester prices and weak global economic growth.

In other news, the CFO at Forever 21 has resigned as the retailer denies facing financial difficulties; industrial thread major Coats has bought software developer Fast React Systems; and South Korea’s TK Chemical Corp is building a massive spandex plant in Iran.

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