Blog: Leonie BarrieWhat next for apparel sourcing?

Leonie Barrie | 26 January 2016

While consumers increasingly crave instant gratification, one-of-a-kind merchandise, and more options than ever before in terms of products and how and where to buy them, retailers and brands are being hampered by supply chains that are legacies of a previous era. Is a fundamental redesign the answer? Or can existing ones be improved? We take a closer look at the Roadmap to the apparel supply chain of the future.

And could corporate social responsibility (CSR) be the secret weapon to countering some of the challenges currently facing apparel and textile producers in China?

New initiatives and in-factory research suggest that not only is an engaged workforce likely to be more motivated and easier to retain, but it is more productive too – with benefits ultimately being seen on a company's bottom line.

Apparel brands and sourcing firms including Gap Inc, Nike, and Li & Fung have been named in a trade union report claiming 50 companies have a hidden global workforce of 116m people within their supply chains. The study suggests a global footprint makes it all too easy to turn a blind eye to the use of informal work or even slavery.

But social auditing and certification organisation Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) is facing up to the "pervasive challenge" of monitoring working hours in apparel factories with a new transparent approach to the problem.

The US-based group admits that many factories doctor their working hour records to show the kinds of numbers they think the auditors want to see – and that the resulting set of multiple books is a "standing joke" in the industry.

As part of its ongoing efforts to boost domestic production and increase the assembly of consumer products in the US, retail behemoth Wal-Mart has awarded US$2.8m to five universities for their work on innovations in textile manufacturing.

For retailers, the 'Big Show' that took place in New York last week is an annual opportunity to tap into the latest technologies for improving everything from customer analysis to inventory management. We have rounded up some of the latest launches and developments.

Economic inequality, the decline of America's working class – and with it, the ability of a large segment of the public to purchase clothing – was a major contributor to the recent lacklustre US holiday retail sales. It also goes hand-in-hand with the apparent rise of Donald Trump in the American presidential race.

And Mike Flanagan debunks some New Year forecasts about four issues that are likely to be important in garment sourcing for some time.

In other news, Fiona Lambert is to step down as head of Asda's George clothing division amid a structural review at the UK retailer; PVH Corp is to launch men's shirts incorporating magnetic closures instead of buttons; and specialty clothing retailer Gap Inc is tapping into the active wear trend with a new girl's clothing line under its Athleta brand.

And Adidas, Hennes & Mauritz, Marks & Spencer and Kering have all been recognised among the world's most sustainable corporations; nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are being banned from textile articles sold across all EU member states from 2021; and Levi Strauss has hit back at a report that it charges women up to twice as much as men for almost identical items sold in the UK.

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