The State of the Apparel Supply Chain

  • What is the biggest hurdle to “speed to market”?
  • What’s more important these days? Dollars or days?
  • Is mass customization a nice to have or a need to have?
  • How are companies fostering better partnerships with vendors?
  • How much has your company been impacted by the “Trump effect”?
  • Industry buzzwords: Amazon, sustainability, digitalization, transparency, on-demand manufacturing, data analytics.
  • How well are companies executing on their data?
  • 2017 is the year of _________? And What will 2018 be known for?

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

13 thoughts on “The State of the Apparel Supply Chain”

  1. I find the section on customization very interesting. I played around with developing this technology for my brand AndAgain, which allowed customers to add different design details to pairs of vintage jeans. Many people felt as though this technology was very interesting and cool, however I feel as though customers see customizing as a nice to have. What I learned is that customers really do not know what they want and find it very difficult to create something unique and fashionable if they are not coming from a design oriented background. I learned that people really need to be told what they want so I was surprised to see some people in the video say that customization is a must have for the future, however I feel that beauty may be a different story.

  2. I found this video extremely interesting! One topic that the interviewees did not agree on was the need for customization which I think will indefinitely have to be implemented in the future. With the major negative environmental impacts brought on by the textile and apparel industry, I think having the ability for consumers to choose how they want their clothes to look will eliminate over all waste and contribution to landfills. If for example, three dimensional clothing printers were to become accessible to consumers, large corporations wouldn’t mass produce garments and get stuck with what ever merchandise that didn’t sell. All major corporations have this problem and ways in which they discard extra merchandise always poses a threat to the environment. For example, some higher name brands will choose to burn their unsold products rather than to allow off market retailers such as TJMaxx and Ross to resell their products at discount rate.

  3. In FASH455 we talked a lot about the Trump Administration and how it effects the industry as a whole. Just like I expected each person interviewed had agreed that the “Trump effect”has not been an ideal situation. It has created many insecurities in the market. Also has actually brought companies to a point in their businesses that they did not expect to be in months prior. Because of Trump putting companies in bad positions it is also starting to effect customers, which is very concerning for these businesses. They are becoming more hesitant in buying decisions because they do not know what the future holds. As far as 2018 goes, the point I agree with the most was that it will be a year of redefining retail because so much is changing in the industry as far as trade policies and technology advancements, therefore, I do agree that there will be have to be a focus of change in retail.

  4. I was very interested in the mass customization section and how these market leaders don’t believe it will ever completely take off. I completely agree with that statement because although people think they want things that are customized, most times it doesn’t turn out the way they want to because they aren’t sure exactly what they want. People without real design backgrounds are content with following the trends and wearing what everyone else is wearing, and I think mass customization to most people is very intimidating because it forces them to think outside of the box and create something they’ve never really seen before. I think the basic clothing that designers put out will always be a better seller than mass customization due to this fact.

  5. As the demand for speed to market becomes increasingly prevalent it is interesting to learn the biggest obstacles within the supply chain in getting products into the market quickly. It was informative to see these hurdles from the viewpoints of professionals in the industry. It is essential to have open lines of communication between all departments in the supply chain beginning with product development up until the product is on the sales floor. Another weakness that needs to be improved to enhance speed to market is the analog supply chain and the alignment of views between the retailers and suppliers. Fast fashion continues to grow in the fashion industry so speed to market is essential because styles are constantly changing and stores must provide the newest styles rapidly. Consumers want to purchase newest trend styles immediately so the limited amount of production days play an important role in getting the products in stores. Each step of the supply chain, especially suppliers and retailers, need to effectively communicate in order to successfully supply the ever-changing styles in the fashion industry.

  6. I found it interesting how all of the interviewees agreed that neither Days or Dollars surpasses on another, but they are one in the same. “Days ARE dollars,” as said by one of the industry leaders. I find this to be very true because the longer it takes to bring something to market then that is just money wasted. I feel that this question coincides with the idea of speed to market. Consumers today are constantly looking for the next big thing and it is imperative for companies to keep up with the needs of the consumer. If a company cannot keep up with its competitors its just money that is being spent at their competitors rather than in their stores.

  7. I enjoyed the fact that this video talked about customization in terms of the current apparel supply chain. Many of those who do not pursue an education in the business or fashion industry have a lack of knowledge of the many steps and processes that go into making up an entire supply chain. While the supply chain is already complex, I believe having an emphasis on customization may only make it harder for apparel companies to give their consumers what they went. Many consumers only follow trends or buy whatever their favorite brands make and also may not be interested in taking on the responsibility of telling apparel companies what they want.

  8. Many start-up companies emerging in the fashion industry face challenges in the hopes to expand their products that resonate and relate to the ever so changing consumer demands. This is a growing problem in a rapidly changing global market place, where speed to market may dictate success of failure. Companies that take too long to commercialize their products may fail to capitalize on a narrow window of opportunity before competitors come in and beat them out. I found it very interesting that in the video above, it stated that the biggest hurdle to speed to market was the analog supply chain of companies using email and excel. It is also imperative that their is fluid communication during every aspect of the supply chain starting from production development, to distribution, through every level until it is eventually seen on the sales floor.

  9. I thought that the most interesting part of this video was when the interviewees were asked “what is more important — dollars, or days?” and they all said days because they TURN INTO dollars. I think that while it is important to have a fast speed to market and quick turnover time between styles, it is difficult to go through every step of the production process in as little time as possible while maintaining quality. Like one woman said in the video, if you see a celebrity wearing something now you don’t want to wait for it to be available in a year from now. I also think that mass customization is a hot topic in the industry and while I think that it is a good option to provide to consumers, it is likely difficult to make a large profit in that way.

  10. great thoughts! This is exactly why sourcing is increasingly about striking a balance among cost, speed to market, flexibility, and risks. Look forward to our case study 3 which echoes your point.

  11. The two most interesting questions of this video were whether dollars or days were more important and the section on mass customization. Most of the interviewees mentioned that dollars and days are either interrelated or are the same thing when it comes to producing apparel. It reminded me of the saying “time is money”; in order to make money, companies must get their product designed and created in a short enough period of time before the consumer loses interest in the trend. This idea connects to what the woman said about consumers wanting a style as soon as they see it on a celebrity or influencer. In those terms, the days in which it takes for the products to be created definitely matters, however, the idea that a higher speed to market compromises quality is a factor that comes into play. Additionally, the idea of mass customization is talked about whenever technology is the topic of discussion. While I also believe that mass customization is not prevalent in our current fashion industry, I believe that it is the future of the industry as new technologies, such as 3D printing become more advanced and more readily available and accessible to consumers.

  12. It was very interesting listening to the CEO of Ziel say that in regards to “speed to market” days are more important than dollars because as the President of NGC mentioned “days are dollars” meaning that time is money. I agree that when a celebrity or another innovator wears an outfit that influences consumers is critical for the apparel industry to action immediately. I also agree that the biggest hurdle to “speed to market” is culture because today’s culture is constantly changing. In the past 10 years social media has evolved tremendously that I don’t believe the apparel industry will be able to keep up because consumers’ interests are changing too quickly.

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