VF Sourcing Strategy Case Study Updates (May 2017)

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(Slide above: VF Corporation European Headquarter; Photo Credits: Hannah Wilson)

VF Business Operation General

V.F. Corporation (VF) designs, manufactures, distribute and market branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories. The company offers Jeanswear, outdoor and action sports, image wear, sportswear and contemporary brands. The company markets its products under brands namely, the North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, Vans, Lee and Nautica, among others. It sells its products to specialty stores, department stores, national chains and mass merchants, as well as through direct-to-consumer channel consisting of VF operated stores and internet sites.

VF reported revenue of $12 billion in 2016, up 1% over fiscal year 2015. Gross margin% of the company improved 20 basis points to 48.4% as benefits from pricing, lower product costs, and a mix-shift toward higher margin businesses. However, gross margin% was partially offset by changes in foreign currency and the impact of restructuring charges. VF’s adjusted operating income was down 6 percent to $1.7 billion. Adjusted operating margin decreased 90 basis points to 14.0%.

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VF Sourcing Strategy

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VF’s centralized global supply chain organization is responsible for producing, procuring and delivering products to its customers. On an annual basis, VF sources or produces approximately 523 million units spread across more than 30 brands. VF’s products are obtained from its 27 self-operated manufacturing facilities and approximately 1,600 contractor manufacturing facilities in over 50 countries. No single supplier represents more than 10% of VF’s total cost of goods sold. In 2016, 22% of VF’s units were manufactured in VF-owned facilities and 78% were obtained from independent contractors.

VF operates manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe. A significant percentage of denim bottoms and occupational apparel is manufactured in these plants, as well as a smaller percentage of footwear and other products.

For VF’s self-owned production facilities, VF purchases raw materials from numerous U.S. and international suppliers to meet their production needs. Raw materials include products made from cotton, leather, rubber, wool, synthetics and blends of cotton and synthetic yarn, as well as thread and trim (product identification, buttons, zippers, snaps, eyelets and laces). Products manufactured in VF facilities generally have a lower cost and shorter lead times than products procured from independent contractors.

Independent contractors generally own the raw materials and ship finished, ready-for-sale products to VF. These contractors are engaged through VF sourcing hubs in Hong Kong (with satellite offices across Asia) and Panama. These hubs are responsible for managing the manufacturing and procurement of product, supplier oversight, product quality assurance, sustainability within the supply chain, responsible sourcing and transportation and shipping functions. In addition, VF’s hubs leverage proprietary knowledge and technology to enable certain contractors to more effectively control costs and improve labor efficiency. Substantially all products in the Outdoor & Action Sports and Sportswear coalitions, as well as a portion of products for VF Jeanswear and Imagewear coalitions, are obtained through these sourcing hubs.

Products obtained from contractors in the Western Hemisphere generally have a higher cost than products obtained from contractors in Asia. However, contracting in the Western Hemisphere gives VF greater flexibility, shorter lead times and allows for lower inventory levels.

This combination of VF-owned and contracted production, along with different geographic regions and cost structures, provides a well-balanced, flexible approach to product sourcing. VF intends to continue to manage its supply chain from a global perspective and adjust as needed to changes in the global production environment (VF Annual Report, 2015, 2016).

“Third-Way” Sourcing Update

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VF has the goal of 40/40/20 for factory ownership. They want to own 40% of the factories they use, utilize the third-way approach in 40% of the factories, and use transactional sourcing for the other 20% (Glaser, 2014).

VF has expanded its Third-Way manufacturing program to sub-Sahara Africa, in addition to the third way factories VF works within Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Dominic Republic and Nicaragua. VF is looking into Africa because, while Africa may not be as efficient as Asia currently, there is potential to get it to 80% efficiency in the coming years. It could also be cheaper to source from Africa given the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) with the United States

Since its creation VF has split its “Third-Way” factories into three different categories: light, medium, and heavy. Light Third-Way is having engineers consult with the factories and visit each week. The medium Third-Way involves having an engineer on site and a long-term commitment to the supplier from VF. Lastly, the heavy Third-Way involves profit-share and open book costing as well as sharing of research and development (R&D) (Barrie, 2015). 

Trust continues to be a central theme in Third-Way sourcing, as does having the right people on board with the initiative. VF also believes that any positive changes made to the factories because of the Third-Way program will ultimately help the whole industry and drive positive change, even if the changes are used for other companies that source from the same vendor (Barrie, 2015).

Sourcing Trends of U.S. Fashion Companies: Discussion Questions from FASH455

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The following questions are proposed by students in FASH455 (Spring 2017) based on the 2016 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study. Please feel free to join the online discussion (please mention the question # in your comment).

#1 With many bricks and mortar stores closing and profits decreasing in many of these stores, why do you think that 92% of respondents are optimistic or somewhat optimistic about the fashion industry over the next five years? Do you believe that there is a technological advance or a change in organizational structure that is coming in the future that is keeping them hopeful?

#2 U.S. fashion companies today have a very diversified sourcing base. For example, overall 52% of respondents report sourcing from more than ten different countries. However, it seems quite challenging to ensure all the factories they are sourcing from are up to the company’s standards. Do you think with increased pressure to become more sustainable as well as have ethical working conditions across their supply chain, U.S. fashion companies will source from fewer countries in the future?

#3 According to the survey, controlling sourcing and production cost remains one of the top business challenges for U.S. fashion companies. Does it imply that it is unrealistic to expect companies to make commitments to sustainability and social responsibility at the sacrifice of their profit?

#4 U.S. apparel imports from Vietnam has been growing rapidly in recent years. Why do you think Vietnam has been able to expand as a garment exporter so quickly, outperforming most of its Asian competitors?

#5 As optimism continues to create new demand for human talent, more specifically for fashion designers, buyers and merchandisers, sourcing specialists, and social compliance specialists how can the fashion department at the University of Delaware further prepare us to excel at these positions? Any specific suggestions?

#6 What other sourcing and trade topics do you think the benchmarking study could include?

What Do You Take Away from FASH455?

I encourage everyone to watch the above two short videos, which provide a great wrap-up for FASH455 and remind us the true meaning of our course.

Indeed, I hope students can take away essential knowledge about textile and apparel (T&A) trade & sourcing from FASH455. So far in the course we’ve discussed various trade theories, evolution pattern of the global T&A industry, three major T&A supply chains in the world today (namely the “Western-Hemisphere” supply chain, “Factory Asia” supply chain based on the flying geese model and the phenomenon of intra-region T&A trade in Europe) as well as T&A trade policy. Understanding how trade and sourcing work will be highly relevant and beneficial to your future career in the fashion industry, no matter you’d like to become a fashion designer, buyer, merchandiser, sourcing specialist or marketing analyst.

However, more importantly, I hope FASH helps students shape a big picture vision of the T&A industry in today’s global economy and provides students a fresh new way (perspective) of looking at the world. Throughout FASH455, we’ve examined many critical, timely and pressing global agendas that are closely connected with the T&A industry, from the social responsibility problem, controversy of used clothing trade, debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to trade politics in the U.S. presidential election. It is important to keep in mind that we wear more than just clothes: We also wear the global economy, international business, public policy and trade politics that make affordable, fashionable, and safe clothes possible and available for hardworking families.

Likewise, I hope FASH455 puts students into thinking the meaning of being a FASH major (as well as a college graduate) and how to positively contribute to the world we are living today. What is often overlooked is that T&A is far more than just about “sewing”, “fashion magazine”, “shopping” and “Project Runway”. The fact is, as one of the largest and most economically influential sectors in the world today, T&A industry plays a critical and unique role creating jobs, promoting economic development, enhancing human development and reducing poverty. For example, globally over 120 million people remain directly employed in the T&A industry, a good proportion of whom are females living in poor rural areas. For most developing countries, T&A usually accounts for 70%–90% of their total merchandise exports and provide one of the very few opportunities for these countries to participate in globalization. We are as important as any other major on the campus!

Last but not last, I hope from taking FASH455, students can take away some meaningful questions that can inspire their future study and even life’s pursuit. For example:

  • How to more equally distribute the benefits & cost of globalization among different countries and groups of people?
  • How to make sure that tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse will never happen again?
  • How to make international trade work better and more effectively lead to economic growth and human development?
  • How to achieve sustainability while develop the economy? To which extent shall we renovate the conventional growth model?
  • How to use trade policy as a tool to solve some tough global issues such as labor practices and environmental standard?

These questions have no good answer yet. But they are waiting for you, the young professional and new generation of leaders, to explore and write the history, based on your knowledge, wisdom, responsibility, courage and creativity!

So what do you take away from FASH455? Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and How it Will Affect Apparel Sourcing: Discussion Questions from FASH455

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#1 How will the United States specifically benefit from the AGOA? Who is on the opposing side of the AGOA?

#2 We know sourcing from Asia means “cheap” and sourcing from the Western-Hemisphere means “fast”. But what could be incentives for U.S. companies to source from Africa? In other words, what are the unique competitiveness of Africa as a sourcing destination?

#3 Will the “third-country fabric” provision in the AGOA discourage investment in Africa’s textile industry? Why or why not?

#4 Why do you think the AGOA doesn’t adopt the “yarn-forward” rules of origin? Should it?

#5 It is said that the AGOA has been “underutilized” by the apparel industry. What is your view?

#6 What are the considerations behind the 10-year extension of the AGOA in 2015? To decide whether to further extend the AGOA beyond 2025, what factors should be considered?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and recommend any additional articles/readings/resources relevant to the discussion. Please mention the question # in your reply.

Pattern of U.S. Textile and Apparel Imports (Updated: September 2016)

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U.S. textile and apparel imports enjoy steady growth from 2000 to 2015. Specifically, the value of U.S. textile imports reached $26,763 million in 2015, up 4.2 percent from 2014 and 85.1 percent from 2000. The value of U.S. apparel imports reached $85,165 million in 2015, up 4.1 percent from 2014 and 48.8 percent from 2000.  It is forecasted that the value of U.S. textile and apparel imports could reach $27,355 million (up 2.2 percent) and $85,719 million (up 0.7 percent) respectively in 2016.

product structure

Because the United States is no longer a major apparel manufacturer but one of the largest apparel consumption markets in the world, apparel products accounted for 76.1 percent of total U.S. textile and apparel imports in 2015, followed by made-up textiles (16.9 percent), fabrics (5.8 percent) and yarns (1.3 percent).

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In terms of source of products, U.S. imported apparel from as many as 150 countries in 2015. However, Herfindahl index reached 0.15 for knitted apparel (HS chapter 61) and 0.18 for woven apparel (HS chapter 62) in 2015, suggesting this is a market with a high concentration of supplying countries. Specifically, all top apparel suppliers to the United States in 2015 (by value) are developing countries and most of them are located in Asia, including China (35.9 percent), Vietnam (12.4 percent), Bangladesh (6.3 percent), Indonesia (5.8 percent), India (4.3 percent) and Mexico (4.2 percent).

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U.S. textile and apparel imports are also becoming even cheaper. For example, U.S. apparel imports in 2015 on average was only 85.7 percent of the price in 1990 and the price of imported fabrics cut almost by half over the same period.

fast growing categories

From 2013 to 2015, the fastest growing textile and apparel import categories unusually include several fabric products, such as blue denim (OTEXA code 225, up 74.8%), Cheesecloths (OTEXA code 226, up 74.3%) and woven fabrics (OTEXA code 611, up 49.3%).  It is likely that the growing business of apparel “Made in USA” has led to an increased demand for imported fabrics.  

growth rate

Additionally, U.S. apparel imports overall mirror the pattern of apparel retail sales in the U.S. market. This reflects the fact that the performance of the U.S. economy is the leading factor shaping the size of demand for imported apparel. It is also interesting to note that the value of U.S. apparel imports grew at a faster rate than the value of U.S. apparel retail sales in 2015 (4.1 percent v.s. 1.7 percent), suggesting import penetration ratio (i.e. the percentage of apparel consumed in the United States that is supplied by imports) continues to rise.

Data source: Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), U.S. Department of Commerce

by Sheng Lu

Apparel “Made in America” of Imported Fabrics

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Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently launched a new website “Made In America: A Buyer’s Guide for Donald Trump”, which highlighted hundreds of U.S. manufacturers for products ranging from men’s ties, suits to furniture. 

Joseph Abboud is one of the companies highlighted by the website for making “Made in America” suites and shirts. But does “Made in America” mean a Joseph Abboud branded suit or shirt is 100% made in the United States from yarns, fabrics to the cut-and-sew process? Not necessarily!

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According to information submitted by Joseph Abboud to the “Made in USA” database managed by the Office of Textiles and Apparel under the U.S. Department of Commerce, some of its products actually are “partially made in U.S.A. with imported fabrics”.

This is evidenced both by Joseph Abboud’s product label and information provided by some retailers which sell Joseph Abboud’s branded products (See pictures below).

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Hamilton Shirts of Houston is another company highlighted by Clinton’s “Made in USA” website. But similar as the case of Joseph Abboud, a Hamilton branded shirt priced at $215-$245 is typically “Hand cut and sewn in the USA. 100% cotton Italian fabric.”

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Actually, Joseph Abboud is a brand owned by JA Holding, Inc., which was acquired by Tailored Brands for $94.9 million on August 6, 2013. As of June 2016, Tailored Brands also owns the Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank.

Like most other US apparel companies/fashion brands today, Tailored Brands commits to global sourcing. In fiscal year 2015, the company “sourced approximately 60% of direct sourced merchandise from Asia (36% from China) while 13% was sourced in the U.S., 12% in Mexico, and 15% was sourced in other regions.” (Source: Tailored Brands Annual Report, 2015)

Tailored Brands uses the factory in New Bedford, MA (the one highlighted by Clinton’s website) to make tailored clothing under the Joseph Abboud label, including designer suits, tuxedos, sport coats and slacks which they sell in Men’s Wearhouse stores as well as Joseph Abboud’s flagship store. Tailor Brands also sells Joseph Abboud branded products in Moores stores, which are made in Canada by a third party.

Related article: Clothing Label Reveals the Global Nature of the Textile and Apparel Industry 

Disclaimer: All blog posts on this site are for FASH455 educational purposes only and they are nonpolitical and nonpartisan in nature. No blog post has the intention to favor or oppose any particular presidential candidate, nor shall be interpreted in that way.

Turning Africa into a Global Textile and Apparel Hub

Before the 2016 Source Africa Trade event in June 2016, CNBC interviewed Tim Armstrong, Investment Promotion Director for the Textile Development Unit at the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Tanzania. Three questions were discussed during the interview:

  • Are free trade agreements/trade preference programs such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) translating into tangible results we can see that help African clothing exporters?
  • What has AGOA extension done to the textile and apparel industry in Africa, particularly in the context of Tanzania? What are the impacts of rules of origin on investment in the region?
  • Can apparel “Made in Africa” compete in the global marketplace when raw material such as yarns and fabrics has to be sourced from elsewhere?

What is your view on these issues?