The fashion industry relies heavily on global sourcing, and it’s likely that most people’s wardrobes are full of clothing produced in far-flung developing countries. Countries such as India and China are big players within the global apparel production industry, but while sweatshop conditions in factories across Asia draw bad press, companies in the UK, the US, and even South Africa are beginning to find multiple reasons to bring production closer to home.
Why local is good
There are many benefits to localised supply chain solutions in the apparel industry. Less transportation is required, cutting costs and carbon footprints. Social sustainability is promoted, as jobs are provided to local populations, and as the US and most EU countries enforce a certain quality of working conditions, ethical supply chain management is made easier for companies. However, the most important benefit is that local supply chain solutions speed up the garment’s journey from factory to store.
The term “fast fashion” was coined some years ago, referring to the quick movement of catwalk designs into high street shops, serving the consumer’s desire for new trends as fast as possible. Speedy supply chains have always been an essential cog in the machinery of any innovative apparel company, but the speed at which clothing can go from concept to customer is even more important now with the rise of the internet. The digital movement makes new designer collections and international catwalk shows accessible to be viewed by anyone who’s interested, speeding up people’s exposure to new fashion trends from around the world. ‘Omni-channel’ retail offerings also make it simpler than ever for people to shop for that new coveted item, as consumers can purchase from brands in a multitude of ways.
In order for retailers to compete in the competitive and crowded garment market, an intelligent supply chain is needed to match the pace of the fashion world, achieving speed and flexibility.Fast fashion allows brands to refresh their offerings several times per season, maintaining consumer interest, but only if the company’s supply chain can keep up.
Spanish clothing and accessories retailer Zara represents a perfect example of localised supply chain strategy. Zara’s reputation has been built on the brand’s ability to deliver new fashion trends to stores at speed, and this is achieved through tightly controlled and highly centralised design, manufacturing and distribution processes.
While Zara’s basic ranges are largely produced in Asia, around half of Zara’s items are made in Spain or nearby European countries. Clever supply chain management means factories can handle sudden production changes, and their geographical proximity to target markets makes it possible for cutting-edge fashion pieces to reach Zara’s stores in a matter of days.
It is reported that Zara gets 85% of the full price on its clothes, justifying the increased labour and shipping costs, and thanks to the brand’s sterling reputation in the fashion world, the store doesn’t even pay to advertise.
Many other high street labels, including Uniqlo, H&M and Marks & Spencer, share Zara’s interest in local sourcing, and with the rapid rise and fall of fast fashion trends, the whole high street may have to step up a gear to crank out cutting-edge fashion offerings.
However, more dispersed supply chains can still apply some of the principles of localised supply chains, and compete in the fast fashion market. Good supply chain management relies on the consistent tracking of all production lines, and for companies that aren’t able to develop localised supply chains, transparency and clear communications between sites is even more essential.
Intelligent supply chain management is key to any apparel company’s success in fast fashion, and Segura’s Production Tracking solutions allow manufacturers to track where any products are in the manufacturing to delivery process, giving them complete online control. Segura Production Tracking also includes Asset Manager, which enables manufacturers to control the entire workflow for the specification and approval of new or changed products.
Originally Published 31/01/2014