Blog: Leonie BarrieFive sourcing trends – and what they mean

Leonie Barrie | 19 December 2017

The changing dynamics of world textile and apparel trade are closely linked to the shifting sourcing and supply chain strategies of fashion brands and retailers. And according to a special just-style analysis of the latest World Trade Organization (WTO) data, there are five key patterns worth watching. Here we assess their future implications.

Recent moves that ensure Britain is set to remain within the European Single Market and Customs Union (at least for the foreseeable future) mean retailers must now switch their focus to really understanding what's driving their customers.

Changing mindsets and challenging the status quo are key to building fast and smart supply chains, according to Paul Fowler, chief information officer at Hong Kong-based global sourcing specialist Li & Fung.

As part of its plans, the company is to divest three of its vertical product businesses – including sweaters – in a US$1.1bn deal that will allow it to focus on its core competencies.

Research into the corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts of China's textile and garment enterprises as they expand overseas has uncovered a number of shortfalls in factories in Bangladesh and Myanmar. While China’s outbound direct investment in textiles reached a high of US$2.66bn in 2016, many Chinese companies have limited experience in overseas operation, and lack understanding of local culture and customs.

Separately, leading European and US apparel brands and trade associations have called on the Myanmar Government to respect the rights of the ethnic minority population of the conflict-torn Rakhine State or risk further eroding business and investor confidence.

Ethiopia will inaugurate two new industrial parks this month, representing an investment of US$315m, as part of the government's long-term vision to become a world-leading apparel and textile hub.

And an initiative aimed at promoting sustainable production in Ethiopia's textile sector has also received government support and aims to reach 74 factories by 2020.

The Mauritian Government has approved a new minimum wage package, which unions say will mean a significant increase for many workers, particularly those in the textile sector.

Apparel and footwear giant VF Corporation, owner of The North Face and Timberland brands, has launched a new global sustainability and responsibility strategy committing it to reduce its global environmental footprint by 50%, from farm to front door, by 2030.

And the Nordic apparel sector has long been seen as a bellweather for sustainability in fashion. A recent event in New York City heard how the region's brands, retailers and designers are creating a new paradigm for making apparel that promotes the environment, rather than diminishes it.

In other news last week, Adidas America is shedding its stand-alone digital services division; a new online platform has been launched to provide trade-related information for cotton products; and M&S has joined an initiative to improve the health of Bangladesh garment workers.

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