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Fashion Thinks Global: The Pat Riley Effect

Logistics providers can help apparel manufacturers and retailers optimize the supply chain to meet global marketplace challenges.

Thomas E. Hickey

W hile in Bangkok on business this spring, I visited an Indian tailor to have some shirts made. As I was describing the type of collar I wanted, which has a certain curve, the tailor interjected, “Oh, you want the Pat Riley!”

Pat Riley is, of course, the successful National Basketball Association coach. He may be a household name among sports fans in America, but among traditionally dressed Indian tailors in Bangkok?

Globalization has indeed made the world a smaller place. This is especially true in the fashion industry, in which the design centers of Milan, Paris, London and New York City are linked more tightly than ever before with the production centers of the Far East and Central America. For the aggressive fashion manufacturer or retailer, never has the potential for profit from building international brands been greater. After all, malls in Dayton, Ohio, and Singapore all carry the same Ralph Lauren Polo shirt these days.

To cope with the ever-changing demands of the global market, it is imperative that today’s retailers efficiently move trendsetting designs from the studio to the store floor as quickly as possible. As a result, the ability to manage a finely tuned supply chain becomes a key enabler of success.


Globalization And Logistics

Every day, manufacturers and retailers face daunting logistics challenges. As with other industries, government and customs regulations are always at the forefront. Hot shipments and samples in many instances need to be in the hands of merchandisers and production staff overnight without fail. Any late delivery or delayed production at origin, air transit delays, or customs issues at destination can have a dramatic impact on a merchandiser’s ability to present and move product. Time to market is critical, but time to showroom is often make-or-break for the garment center community. The industry recognizes that better control of supply chains is the key to being able to meet changing customer demand at the lowest possible cost, helping companies achieve the overall performance that will take them to the next level.

Industry members aspiring to global leadership expect their logistics partners to add significant value, and the bar is constantly rising. To begin with, they recognize the advantages of having a single entity take responsibility on a global basis for moving goods efficiently from design to production centers to stores. They seek rapid replenishment, vendor management and other strategies that will squeeze supply chain costs without jeopardizing delivery commitments. They seek greater shipment visibility with the assurance that no item on any pallet, or the pallet itself, is ever simply “missing.”

Further, they expect continual innovation so as to maintain and enhance their competitive positions. Can the vendor conduct consolidation sweeps in which multiple shipments from multiple factories are consolidated into a reduced number of consignments? How about onsite sample room management in which the vendor provides all receiving, invoice verification, sorting, consolidating, documentation and forwarding services? And does the vendor employ multiple air-transport options, even direct-service aircraft in some cases, designed to move shipments to market in the most timely and cost-effective manner?

But above all else, the industry expects from its logistics partners flexibility in responding to everyday issues that can hobble global operations. Needed are quick and imaginative responses to unforeseen events such as natural disasters, war, or the discovery of wrong addresses or the wrong number of packages, at either the point of origin or the destination.

Customized Logistics
For Optimized Supply Chain

The trend toward offshore sourcing can only intensify. Today, China is the world’s factory floor, although apparel manufacturing in India, and to a lesser extent in Vietnam, is on a significant upswing. Also, the passage of the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement should stimulate activity for certain stock keeping units manufactured in that region.

Longer supply chains mean more borders to cross and additional complexity. So for the apparel manufacturer or retailer with global aspirations, particularly those focused on the $250 billion US market, optimizing the supply chain becomes more important than ever. These days, best logistics practices call for vendors, working collaboratively with their clients, to build their services around customer needs, not their own systems. Telling clients that exceptions to standard operating procedures can’t be made is no longer considered acceptable, if indeed it ever was.

Winning has always demanded putting the right team on the field. For the truth of that, just ask Pat Riley.

Editor's Note: Thomas E. Hickey is vice president, Fashion and Retail, DHL.