Apparel Issues to Watch in 2014

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In the year ahead, the following issues are suggested to watch for the apparel industry according to the latest just style management briefing:

Responsible sourcing: a variety of different themes inclusive of sustainability, compliance, chemical safety and product safety. In the past, the apparel industry has been very reactive in these areas, and efforts have accelerated to move to a more proactive model in 2014.

Demand for greater supply chain visibility: a higher level focus and a lot more time will be required to look at the supply chains from end to end, especially for tier 2 and 3 component suppliers. Apparel industry needs to be focused on preparing to be more transparent on what goes into making its products and the carbon and water footprint it leaves behind. There will also be a stronger emphasis on quality, and more intelligence and agility in the supply chain, including how to achieve global flexibility in supply to maximize advantages and benefits offered by different regions.

Adjust to the industry “new normal”: speed, efficiency and cost management. ‘Quick response’ or ‘fast fashion’ is no longer a catch phrase, it’s a business reality. Speed is king. Retailers have learned to manage with smaller inventories and to quickly react to consumer needs. Additionally, there are no more low cost countries (with capability and capacity) to tap into, which requires more efficient cost control through supply chain design and management.

Internet and omni-channel retailing. The internet continues to upend the apparel industry. Brick and mortar companies are still struggling to figure out how to harness the power of the internet – and struggling to figure out how big of a threat pure-play internet companies are. Meanwhile, the proliferation of internet-only companies continues, increasing the competitive pressure on everyone (including the older internet-only companies!). All of this will end up resulting in a much stronger industry overall – but in the meantime there will be a lot of hand-wringing and heartache.

Economic outlook. Overall, 2014 will be a year better off than 2013. The US economy continues to improve, the Eurozone recession has stabilised and there is the huge opportunity Asia offers.

Country risk. Whatever happens in the real economy, political tensions throughout developing countries (except possibly China and Vietnam) are growing. They are about more than working conditions in garment factories – and we cannot expect the garment industry to remain immune from them.

International market expansion. Global vertical retailers and brands need to balance the efficiency of global assortments with being able to cater to a broad range of consumer purchasing preferences across cultural groups. Winners manage to preserve their brand identity while offering attractive choices to this diverse customer group.

Trade policy and trade politics. 2014 is an election year for US Congress. It will only be tougher to find bipartisan consensus. Things to watch include whether the Obama Administration is going to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during 2014, whether the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) can get passed as well as the renewal of the Generalized system of Preferences (GSP) and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

China’s role in the global apparel supply chain. China’s productivity miracle has been the single major influence on global sourcing over the past five years. While this cannot go on forever it is hard to see a significant change in its share in 2014. China’s dominance of upstream textile production (spinning, weaving and knitting) is under greater threat. Its main operators are making substantial overseas investment, and while the timing of major upstream projects means this will have little impact on fabric and yarn manufacture in 2014, the subject will preoccupy observers. Onshore garment development in Japan, Germany, the UK and US will continue to create much publicity, but limited amounts of garments. Nearshoring continued to lose market share in the EU and US during 2013, though many buyers express growing interest, and there are signs of growth in some categories. It will be surprising if it shows any significant increase in 2014.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

5 thoughts on “Apparel Issues to Watch in 2014”

  1. I completely agree with the first issue, responsible sourcing because it is vital that our clothing has chemical and product safety! we need to make sure that all of our clothing, especially children’s clothing has fire safety! I do think the world is getting better with sustainability as well because there are a lot more Eco friendly items in the markets more and more each year.

    The next issue, demand for greater supply chain visibility is bringing up a valid point. Consumers want their products to be made from intelligence and agility. The quality of the clothing has vanished in most stores, everything is rather cheap looking now, it is important that suppliers focus more on the quality than they have in the past. The point they made about making sure that the apparel industry focuses more on the carbon and water footprint it leaves behind is extremely important to the environment! Suppliers need to make sure they are not wasting any resources.

    I think the “new normal” speed is way out of hand nowadays! Everything is happening too fast, and i believe that effects the quality of the apparel.

    I love to shop online, but I am now realizing how it effects stores everywhere! Having the ability to online shop effects the consumers shopping habits! No one wants to shop in stores anymore and companies that have online services sometimes close some of their own stores because they are not having any business due to consumers shopping online.

      1. I would rate these issues a 10 out of 10 because they are all important factors in the apparel textile market. Consumers need to know that their products are being made efficiently and the right way. They need to know that suppliers are supplying the greatest quality at hand, especially if consumers are paying valuable money on them.
        As I mentioned before, the internet retailers have a great impact on stores because its a huge competition for them. (This may mean fewer jobs) All these issues have to do with globalism as well, because these issues have impact on American products as well as other countries’ products because we all effect each other.
        As we mentioned in class, globalism has to do with everyone because we all work together in making products, so all of our products need to address these issues. It does say that these issues are becoming less of a threat than the past years, but supplies need to maintain that success and continue to make these issues disappear.

  2. Sustainability may be a huge issue to watch but I feel that adjusting to the new normal may be the biggest issue. I feel retailers need to become more conscious of their off-shore factories and their conditions. I understand it is more cost efficient to have off-shore factories, but some factories are treating their employees inhumanly.
    Another major factor is the internet and omni channel retailing. Physical retailers need to step their game up if they want to compete with the new internet retailers. The internet is becoming the easiest, most efficient way to shop. It is very comforting that you feel the economic outlook this year is predictably better than last.

  3. While all of these issues are categorized into their own sections, they ideally have some sort of connection to one another. Increasing responsibility of sourcing is a smart idea, since I feel as thought they are the building blocks of a good factory. And having a safer factory is safer for the companies that source form them as well. A higher supply chain visibility is important, especially present day. The increased focus on what goes in to making products and the carbon/water footprint is leaves behind are very crucial right now. We need to be much more aware of our environmental impact now than ever before. I agree that fast fashion is the now the “norm”. Fashion trends are coming and going quicker than ever, thanks to technology.

    While all of these issues are categorized into their own sections, they ideally have some sort of connection to one another. For example, with fast fashion people are going through clothes quickly and clothes are being manufactured quickly, but then we have to be aware of how that is also impacting our environment. Also as much as we want to be more cost effective we have to ensure that no corners will be cut especially when it comes to something like safety.

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