Blog: Leonie BarrieDigitalisation goalposts constantly evolving

Leonie Barrie | 29 May 2018

The debate and discussion around digitalisation continues to top the apparel industry’s agenda – but as Spencer Fung, group CEO of Li & Fung explains, the goalposts are constantly evolving.

And pressure on retailers to get products to market faster than ever before requires jettisoning traditional sourcing models in favour of more agile methods of production, and embracing new technologies.

Sustainability and social responsibility are other commercial imperatives for businesses. But what progress are companies making, and are workers' lives improving as a result of social and environmental auditing? Bill McRaith, chief supply chain officer for PVH Corp, joins the debate at the recent Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

Separately, new research has found that the length of a relationship between buyers and suppliers has little impact on the nature of buying practices, with many suppliers finding little incentive to be compliant to buyer codes of conduct.

Vietnam's clothing exports have surged over the past decade, and the country is widely seen as the 'next China' for apparel sourcing. But despite optimism for further expansion under the upcoming CPTPP and EVFTA trade pacts, buyers should instead prepare for limited growth, according to an analysis for just-style.

But while working conditions in Jordan's garment sector are continuing to make "important progress," a lot remains to be done if the industry is to move beyond compliance.

Garments are the second largest export item for Myanmar, but the sector remains exposed to fluctuations in demand from major trading partners such as China and supply shocks.

And US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued an order banning imports of all cotton and cotton products from Turkmenistan – in a move that means retailers and brands will need to quickly identify and eliminate Turkmen cotton from their supply chains.

The debate on better wages and collective bargaining for textile and garment workers also continued last week with discussions in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Full-year results from Marks & Spencer once again emphasised the challenges the UK retail group faces in reinvigorating its clothing business, after posting a 1.9% fall in like-for-like clothing and home sales. While CEO Steve Rowe is optimistic a wider five-year transformation plan is off to a good start, is this enough to revive the retailer's fortunes?

Meanwhile in other news, Target Corp has named former Walmart sourcing executive, William Foudy, as president of its global sourcing organisation – and launched new brands for Gen Z customers; fears of a trade war between the US and China appear to have receded; and a new pretreatment makes the cotton dyeing process more sustainable.

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