Global Value Chain for Apparel Sold at Target

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A global view in mind means more career opportunities: except material production and cut and sew, other well-paid jobs in the apparel value chain stay in the United States.

Source: Moongate Association (2017). Analyzing the Value Chain for Apparel Designed in the United States and Manufactured Overseas

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

10 thoughts on “Global Value Chain for Apparel Sold at Target”

  1. Target claims “70% of the value of imported apparel is created in the United States” and I agree.

    Even though a low-skilled foreign factory worker sews Target’s apparel, Target clarifies that it does not imply the value of their product lays within the factory worker’s hands. A relatively simple shirt that Target produces is more than what meets the eye. The important decisions made by Target’s high-skilled employees are the reason why consumers can purchase said shirt. Bringing manufacturing back to American would be harder said than done. Due to globalizations, we cannot just bring manufacturing back to the US; we have become too exposed and opened Pandora’s box to the world.

    Within Target’s design and development team itself, there is an umbrella of highly skilled specialists who work towards creating the best-valued product—such as the: product development team, buyers, designers, fabric engineers and fabric sourcing, technical designers, apparel designers, product safety team and quality assurance. All of these positions require dozens of employees to work as a team to make it through the various steps of production. It is a minimum of six months of product development before the sourcing and production step begins and then the factory workers will begin their share of work for the production process. However, just because a garment has been sewn together and is now a tangible item for a consumer to purchase, it does not mean the lifecycle is complete and will be found in Target stores tomorrow.

    What most people do not know is the products must go through transportation and distribution approval before being delivered at a Target location. Next, comes the store’s role in merchandise flow, backroom organization, and presentation of the products on the sales floor and much more to run a store effectively. Keep in mind; while the production process is following the necessary steps—there are a multitude of other jobs that must be completed on a corporate level, such as branding, marketing, placement and selling.

    In todays world, the global economy works together to produce all the clothing we wear, hence the impact of globalization, and the global economy. Would the world consider off-shoring a loss to America, if Americans understood how it affects the world and helps struggling countries?

  2. I find it interesting that Target claims that “70% of the value of imported apparel is created in the United States” but most of that value created is through high level positions.
    It is understandable that Target advertises that their high level position employees create the value of their clothing while not forgetting about their lower positioned workers. But I think that more than 30% of apparels’ value should be attributed to the lower positioned workers. They are the ones that are creating the garment physically after all. They do the manual labor and are highly skilled but poorly employed to do so. The big shots create the concept for the garments and then make sure they are made as cheaply as possible to make the most profit from them. This becomes an unfair disadvantage to the people actually making the physical garment. They are forced to work in mostly poor conditions with very little pay to do what they are doing.
    I think that we as the future high positioned employees at companies who will be making decisions about what apparel a company produces and how that company produces it should start to think about these lower positioned workers as people instead of garment makers. They work hard to produce the clothing that we will be telling them to make someday and that can’t be forgotten about. I know the world can’t be changed overnight but I think that if we as the future all come together to create the change in our industry, someday people will be saying that “50% of the value of imported apparel is created in the United States and 50% is created by our workers overseas”.

    1. This is a very great point! A recent study also shows that almost 70% of the value of an imported clothing stay in the United States, contributed by functions like design, product development, branding, marketing and retailing:

      You see, while from the function perspective, each process alongside the apparel supply chain can be equally important (e.g., textile manufacturing vs. apparel assembly), the added value created by each process is often not (for example, the added value contributed by a designer vs. an assembly worker). Behind this pheromone involves many factors, such as the demand and supply in the job market.

      On the other hand, I am with you that the distribution of gains of globalization should become more equal. Later in the course, we will have more in-depth discussions on these topics.

  3. Target makes a great point when talking about their products and workers by saying that their product isn’t just something that comes from a person across the world behind a sewing machine. There is a lot of thought and energy put into these products and there is a long process that goes unnoticed. There are many steps of just one simple piece of apparel that occur in the United States that many of us, including the Target consumers, don’t realize. Just one product starts off with many different design teams and buyers, then later goes through many steps of production and sourcing. There is a lot that happens for one product that many people are not aware of and these people work hard to make sure to satisfy their consumers at the end of this long process, which is very important in the apparel industry.

  4. It’s really interesting how when someone reads the label on their clothing, they more than likely assume that the item was entirely made wherever the label says. The full global value chain for apparel and all the jobs, people, and responsibilities it takes to bring a garment from an idea on the drawing board to a purchase by a consumer is not understood well enough. Like Target mentions, “apparel is about more than who sits behind the sewing machine.” There’s an entire chain of people who are needed to produce an apparel item, and it’s more than just the designer and the manufacturer. There are countless steps from the inspiration to the creation and production , then to the importation and the distribution, and finally to the transaction and into the consumers’ hands. Most consumers are highly uneducated about the path their apparel takes in order to get into their closets and homes, and it is something that companies, like Target, should start to do. This is the premise behind transparency, in that consumers should know exactly where their products came from, where they began, and all the ins and outs of the global value chain. I love how Target broke this down in not only a well-detailed manner, but also in a way that could be understood by their consumers.

    1. very well said! As I know, Target creates these graph for members of US Congress–to help them understand the nature of today’s global apparel value chain and ask them not to favor “manufacturing jobs” over “service jobs.”

    2. I completely agree that companies need to start being transparent in their practices. Being transparent would create an educated consumer base which is very important especially when we should be moving towards more sustainable practices. How can customers know what they are buying if the company doesn’t tell them?

  5. I was delighted to find out how transparent Target is about their global supply chain! In my personal experience when I explore the websites of the companies that I purchase products from they rarely mention the operations that they partake in. As a consumer, I prefer companies to be as transparent as they can because it builds a sense of trust and loyalty.
    On another note, Targets global supply chain goes to show that each step of the production process beginning from the design process leading up to the production and distribution of the product contributes to the final value of the product itself. All parties are equally important in creating a product that consumes will buy once, and hopefully purchase again.

    1. great comment! Agree totally that companies need to be more transparent about their supply chain–where they got the material and under which condition the product is made. Next week we will do a case study on the social responsibility issues involved in apparel sourcing. Hopefully, it will provide more insights into the urgency and complexity of the topic.

  6. The whole global supply chain is so complex and has many different parts to it. When making a single product, there is so much more that goes into it than people necessarily think. For me personally, I never fully thought about how much effort and steps go into each garment, but this class has taught me to open my eyes and really think about where the garments I buy come from. I really like how open Target is about their products. Many brands keep it very private, which can make it difficult for consumers to really get to know the brand they are purchasing from. This is the first time I’ve seen a company who is really transparent with sourcing and production. They give detailed descriptions of before production, during, and after which is very important for consumers to understand because it could make or break their decision to buy from that specific company. I think companies need to be more open about specific details like where they source their products, how many employees work to create these products, and overall just more information about how merchandise arrives at their stores.
    After doing some research, I found some information on other companies’ supply chains and how transparent they are. Amazon is another company that is very open about production and the behind the scenes of how you receive their products. An article I found,, discusses the process behind sourcing and production for Amazon. It gives details of the process starting with sending products, receiving and storing, customer orders, shipping, customer service, and customer returns. It’s very important for companies to show consumers exactly how their process works to bring them the products they buy.

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