Blog: Leonie BarrieStop negotiating and bring in the engineers

Leonie Barrie | 9 October 2017

Surviving in a declining market is the biggest challenge for discount/mass-market retailers and suppliers of commodity products such as basic T-shirts, hoodies or cotton men's shirts – which is why it’s time to stop negotiating and bring in the engineers.

Apparel imports into the US rose month-on-month in August as retailers remained focused on the back-to-school season and started to bring in their first autumn ranges – but continued to fall on the previous year.

Within the top ten suppliers of apparel to the US, shipments from China, Vietnam and Bangladesh all declined on the year before, whereas Nicaragua booked the highest gain as US fashion brands increasingly look to suppliers in the Western Hemisphere for faster speed to market.

Hundreds of garment workers are thought to have perished when two textile workshops collapsed in last month's earthquake near Mexico City, adding to the woes already facing apparel makers. Even so, observers say the earthquake did not substantially damage Mexico's export-focused maquila and local clothing manufacturing industry.

Cambodia's garment, textile and footwear workers are to receive an 11% rise in minimum monthly wages from the beginning of next year – a move that has been met with a mixed reaction among unions and the industry.

Likewise, Myanmar is due to finish a review of its national minimum wage in the coming weeks, although with labour unions and factory operators proposing very different figures, a delay could be on the cards.

Still in Myanmar, and the latest figures show the European Union (EU) has become its largest garment export market, purchasing almost as much from the country in 2016 as the next two largest destinations combined.

The latest twists and turns in the ongoing Brexit saga prompt Mike Flanagan to ask: Is Brexit ever going to happen? The clock is ticking, yet no-one has any idea what the basic rules are going to be for Britain's apparel trade with the rest of Europe or anywhere else.

There is nothing better than the feeling of elation when a project you have lived and breathed for years finally comes to fruition. But here at just-style we would be the first to admit we got too excited, too quickly, about the launch of re:source, our new apparel sourcing planning suite. As we approach the public launch of the first tool, we decided to shed some light on the reasons for putting off its go-live date.

Meanwhile, sportswear giant Adidas says the first major project to be created at its German Speedfactory facility – the Adidas Made For London (AM4LDN) shoe – represents a landmark for manufacturing, with product created at greater speed, precision and personalisation.

And US department store retailer Target Corp has pledged to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2022 for its owned and exclusive apparel brands – with a new policy introduced to help guide the way.

However, while leading international retailers like C&A, H&M, M&S and Tchibo have been described as 'frontrunners' in using sustainable cotton, big brand progress overall still falls short, according to new research.

For UK-based online fashion retailer Asos, a pledge to strengthen workers' rights across its global supply chain has just seen the company sign a global framework agreement (GFA) with the IndustriAll Global Union.

The UK city of Leicester, which is at the centre of much of the country's textile and garment reshoring efforts, is looking to clean up its image with plans to develop a skilled and ethical industry to attract more investment from fashion brands wanting to source locally.

But retailers need to act now if they are to future-proof their businesses against the changing landscape, by rethinking their workforces, adopting analytics, being smarter at using data, and even rethinking how they organise into units such as supply chain, merchandising, pricing, logistics and customer experience.

In other news, online retail giant Amazon has acquired 3D body-scanning start-up Body Labs; Patagonia has launched an online store selling its previously-owned products at lower prices; and while cotton production is expected to rise in 2017/18, prices are likely to remain stable.

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