September 2006 | Commentary | Carriers Corner

Fashion Thinks Global: The 'Pat Riley' Effect

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While in Bangkok recently, I visited an Indian tailor to have some shirts made. As I was describing the type of collar I wanted, the tailor interjected, "Oh, the Pat Riley!"

Pat Riley is, of course, the successful NBA basketball coach. Perhaps a household name in America, but among traditionally dressed turbaned Indian tailors in Bangkok?

Globalization has indeed made the world a smaller place. This is especially true in the fashion industry, where the design centers of Milan, Paris, London, and New York 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 carry the same Ralph Lauren Polo shirt.

From Studio to Store

To cope with the ever-changing demands of the global market, it is imperative that today's retailers efficiently move trend-setting 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.

Every day, manufacturers and retailers face daunting logistics challenges. Government and customs regulations are always at the forefront. Hot shipments and samples often need to be in the hands of merchandisers and production staff overnight without fail. Time to market is critical, but time to showroom is often make-or-break for the apparel business.

The industry recognizes that effective supply chain control is the key to meeting changing customer demand at the lowest possible cost, and achieving 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.

Fashion companies 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 and other strategies that squeeze supply chain costs without jeopardizing delivery commitments. They desire greater shipment visibility with the assurance that no item is ever simply "missing."

Further, they expect innovation from their providers to help maintain and enhance their competitive positions. Can the vendor, for example, consolidate multiple shipments from multiple factories into fewer consignments?

But above all else, the industry expects its logistics partners to be flexible 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 wrong number of packages at the point of origin or destination.

Long, Complex Supply Chains

The trend toward offshore sourcing can only intensify, and the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement should stimulate activity for certain garments manufactured in that region.

Longer supply chains mean more borders to cross and additional complexity. For apparel manufacturers or retailers with global aspirations, particularly those focused on the U.S. market, optimizing the supply chain becomes more important than ever.

These days, best logistics practices call for vendors to build services around customer needs, not their own systems. Telling clients that exceptions to standard operating procedures can't be made is no longer acceptable.

Winning has always demanded putting the right team on the field. Just ask Pat Riley.

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