Apparel supply chain presents unique challenges


Each industry has its own supply chain challenges which can be exacerbated by the ebb and flow of global market forces. Individual segments of the market can be best served by unique and well-tailored supply chain management practices. A recent study by Just-Style determined that the apparel supply chain is especially demanding, with suppliers, manufacturers and distributors at the mercy of a wide variety of overriding factors.

According to the source, nearly all of the factors that can disrupt apparel supply struck in 2010, in what it describes as a "perfect storm." Cotton prices rose quickly, wages doubled in developing countries and the cost to shop from China tripled.

Though the market has stabilized somewhat, the threats remain. The study also emphasized that the ways these factors could impact a particular company are diverse and not entirely predictable. It found that, over the long term, the price of cotton will be the most costly factor of the three outlined.

Unique problems require unique solutions, the report said. The fashion market and its vendors have survived the global recession and the "perfect storm" by adopting new trends in supply chain management.

According to Fibre 2 Fashion, U.K. retailers are taming supply chain problems inherent in the industry through close collaboration. Rather than holding their suppliers and manufacturers at a distance, the retailers are communicating more closely. This uptick in B2B integration has been accompanied by aggressive replenishment policies and moves into digital space, with companies taking advantage of ecommerce to sell online and reach markets around the world.

"We have not been good at this in the distant past but in the last three years we have worked hard at working more collaboratively with our suppliers … we now talk openly and candidly with our supply base and have dramatically reduced supplier failures in the last 18 months as a result," ecommerce fashion executive Sara Honeywell told the source.

When faced with unique challenges and industry demands, the best solution for retailers is often openness and transparency. Armed with strong B2B integration tools and engaged in close relationships with trusted manufacturers and suppliers, companies can survive and even thrive in a marketplace jostled by the difficult conditions of the recession.