During the MAGIC Marketing Week show in Las Vegas this month, Kurt Salmon manager Jordan Pious introduced the results of the 9th Annual Apparel Magazine/Kurt Salmon Sourcing Survey, while Tony Ward, a partner in Kurt Salmon’s Retail and Consumer Group, went on to moderate a panel discussion which delved deeper into the important role sourcing plays in the overall value chain. The discussion touched upon the renewed drive to improve speed to market and maintain overall product quality and also explored ways apparel companies can achieve true breakthroughs in improving the journey from manufacturing to delivery.

What insights did you share?

This years’ Sourcing Survey revealed that retailers and wholesalers alike are putting more emphasis on speed to market than ever before, yet they also recognize consumer demand for consistent quality. Pious’ presentation discussed how low adherence to production cycle calendars and few fully integrated planning tools are hindering speed. Further, the past year’s shipping disruptions remain firmly top of mind for many companies, who are considering more diverse supply chain structures in order to minimize risks. Finally, nearshoring, to support both U.S. and growing Asian domestic markets, is increasing in relevance when it comes to achieving speed-to-market goals, with the Americas and China both highly considered for future sourcing needs.

What resonated most with the audience?

The audience discussion revealed that the importance of collaboration can’t be overstated in the quest to maintain quality while improving speed. From an internal perspective, better communication and collaboration within the organization, through a planned and purposeful process, supports adherence to key calendars and production cycles. Externally, collaboration means ensuring that suppliers and vendors not only speak the same language, but also that they are part of an ongoing dialogue that asks each participant, “How can we continue to improve?” An important part of this process, according to the discussion, is for apparel companies to bring new ideas to the table and to forge partnerships with suppliers and vendors to realize those ideas, leading to more meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships.

What new thinking emerged?

While speed to market is a driving force in the apparel industry, manufacturers and retailers remain intensely focused on preserving quality. The panel discussion revealed that the drive to beat fast-fashion players at their own game can often push firms to become blind to factors other than speed. The challenge for the majority of apparel companies, therefore, is to improve sourcing, logistics, product planning and other parts of the value chain where fast fashion excels, without losing sight of quality concerns. The fast-fashion model doesn’t work for the majority of apparel companies who don’t have the luxury of revisiting and reorganizing their value chain from the ground up. But when it comes to good production, speed and quality are not separate concepts but rather dual necessities.

27 August 2015