Retailing and logistics are concerned with product availability according to Fernie and Sparks (2009). A simply description of logistics is ‘getting the right products to the right place at the right time’. Aimi (2000) demonstrates that supply chain a system including elements such as organizations, technology, information and resource which aims to move products or service from suppliers to customers and companies could obtain competitiveness advantage from effective supply chain. There has been a trend that more and more fashion companies reshape their supply chain so that they could service customers timely and effectively. Therefore, this report will focus on fashion industry and attempts provide a systematic understanding of fashion supply chain.
The report contains three sections. Firstly, fashion supply chain management will be defined. Furthermore, different international fashion supply chain models will be introduced in order to show different ways to deliver products from manufactures to customers. The last section will focus on streamlined model of international fashion supply chain that key players in the chain will be identified as well as their roles.
2.1 Fashion supply chain management
The concept of supply chain management is always attributed to Peter Drucker (1962) because he discussed that distribution as one of the key areas of business where major efficiency gains could be achieved and costs saved (Fine and Vardan, 2002). Kaminsky (2008) defined supply chain management as ‘a set of approaches utilized to efficiently integrate suppliers, manufactures, warehouses, and stores, so that merchandise is produced and distributed at the right quantities, to the right location, and at the right time, in order to minimize system wide costs while satisfying service level requirement’. They key concepts within supply chain management include the value chain, resource-based theory, transaction cost economics as well as network theory. The aim of supply chain is to create value for customer at an acceptable cost. It implies that an effective supply chain would greatly reduce costs so that both companies and customers could benefit from it. This is because lower costs would enable retailers to sell products or service at a lower price. Meanwhile, customers’ needs could be greatly met by cheaper products or service.
Thinking the fashion industry, there has appeared a revolution which is defined as ‘fast fashion’. Fast fashion requires retailers to respond to the market within just a few weeks in order to achieve its aims of serving customers timely. The fashion supply chain has grown rapidly since it aims to obtain fabrics, to manufacture samples, and to start shipping products in very short lead-times than those of the traditional production calendar (Doeringer and Crean (2006). Nordas and Grosso (2006) further illustrate that time is a critical component in fashion industry due to its labour-intensive products. This has led to a fact that fashion products are increasingly time-sensitive.
The situation in fashion industry brings a concept of fashion supply chain management which is named as ‘quick respond’. The rise of the quick response is due to the awareness of companies’ market-oriented strategy. This is because fashion industry is considered with high level of competition intensity. The intensive competition forces fashion companies to find out the way to obtain competitive advantages by better performance as well as non-price competition. Therefore, it requires the fashion companies to carry out an effective supply chain management. Different international fashion supply chain models will be discussed below.
2.2 International fashion supply chain models
The fashion supply chain models could be categorized as traditional, simplified and streamlined models. Different models have different players and each model has different length. Traditional clothing supply chain presents the longest chain. That is to say, a significant amount of plays such as manufacturer, agency and retailer get involved in the chain when delivering products and service. Due to the national advantage of labour intensity in China, there are more and more companies outsource products in China. Therefore, taking UK retailers and Chinese manufacturers as an example, the traditional fashion supply chain model would be shown in the Figure 1.
Figure 1, Traditional fashion supply chain model
As it could be found from the simple figure of tradition fashion supply chain model, the chain consists of five elements which are manufacturer, manufacturers’ head office, agency, retailer’s head office and retailer. The complex process from producing to selling takes a long time to complete. A high cost is brought by this means duo to factors such as transportation and human resource. It will make the companies lose its price competitiveness as they will have to make products more expensive in order to cover high costs. Such high prices will greatly influence the fashion companies’ ability to satisfy consumers’ needs. Therefore, it could be said that traditional fashion supply chain is not a competitive model which exists high risks.
It could be found that simplified fashion supply chain model has been improved based on traditional chain (See Figure 2). As it could be found that the supply chain has been simplified that agency is no longer getting involved in the process. Thus, the players in the chain are manufacture, manufacturer head office, retail head office and final retail. This is because resources must be allocated when products arrive at each layer and it will result in a high costs. On the contrary, the costs could be saved if there are fewer layers in the chain. Hence, it could be said that simplified fashion supply chain model seems to be more effective than traditional supply chain model. As mentioned above, current fashion industry desires fast fashion due to intensive competition which requires a quick response. Simplified fashion supply chain still cannot effectively achieve this due to the long distance from manufacturer to retailers. Therefore, there is still a need to further improve the supply chain.
Figure 2. Simplified fashion supply chain model
It should be understood that the supply chain model varies in different companies. That is to say, different players may get involved in the chain. Besides the model introduced in Figure 2, similar simplified fashion supply chain models are used (See Figure 3 and Figure 4).
Figure 3, Simplified fashion supply chain Figure 4, Simplified fashion supply
without UK retailer head office chain without Hong Kong manufacturing head office
As it could be found in Figure 3, the fashion supply chain consists of four players, such as Chinese clothing manufacturer, Chinese manufacturer’s Hong Kong head office, Hong Kong agency and UK retailer. And Figure 4 demonstrates that Hong Kong agency takes part in the supply chain instead of manufacturer’s head office. Thus, it could be found from these simplified models that companies may shorten the chain by removing players in the chain. The companies are flexible to decide how many players are required when delivering products. However, as it was discussed above, the distance from manufacturers to final consumers are still long in simplified fashion supply chain which leads to a high costs. As a result, there has been a trend that more and more companies began to adopt streamlined supply chain (See Figure 5).
Figure 5, Streamlined supply chain
As the Figure 5 indicates, the fashion supply chain has been greatly developed that only two players get involved in the supply who are Chinese clothing manufacturer and UK retailer. That is to say, companies outsource products in Chinese manufacturing companies and as soon as manufacturers finishing manufacturing, they deliver products directly to UK retailers. It can greatly save costs from human resources as well as transportation. Each player’s role in international fashion streamlined supply chain will be discussed below.
2.3 The player’s role in international fashion streamlined supply chain
The fashion buyer is a manager who has overall responsibility for the selection, sales and profitability. The principal objective of the fashion buyer is to ensure that the products bought for sale by the retailer are appropriate for the target market. That is to say, a fashion buyer is responsible to maximize the sales and profits. To this end, there are several specific responsibilities of a fashion buyer.
The first one is to develop and buy a range of merchandise that achieves the profit margin and is consistent with the retailers’ buying strategy. To achieve this, a fashion buyer must work with the merchandiser in planning the stock mix and understand how the seasonal fashion trends generally adopted by other fashion companies. Then, a fashion buyer needs to source and develop products from an effective supplier base. That is to say, a fashion must select right supplier who can provide good quality products while the costs would be low. Furthermore, a fashion buyer is responsible for the negotiation of product prices including delivery and payment terms. It means that the fashion buyer needs to meet suppliers and discuss cost prices. In addition, it is also the responsibility of a fashion buyer to research and evaluate all relevant product and market trends. By doing this, the fashion buyer could be able to identify consumers’ expectations and their needs on fashion. Normally, the fashion buyer could achieve this by researching and evaluating the information of current and past sales. Also, the fashion buyer needs to communicate effectively with suppliers, product teams and senior management within the company which requires buyer to master different techniques for different situations. Next, it is a fashion buyer’s role to work within the constraints of merchandise planning. That is to say, the buyer needs to operate different issues such as financial budget, available selling space and specific commercial considerations. And finally, it is also fashion buyer’s role to effectively manage and develop the buying team.
Garment technology is used to support buyer on all stages of the development of products. Normally, buyer and garment technologist work very closely in large fashion retailing companies. Garment technologist’s role will be discussed below.
Firstly, a garment technologist needs to work with buying and design to comment on fabric suitability and construction of product designs. Secondly, the garment technologist needs to visit new suppliers to ensure that they are able to meet company’s product standards. Different things are checked from visits such s work in progress, third-party processing and production critical path. Then, a garment technologist oversees all fabric testing and wearer trial and also oversees all fists of fist samples. In addition, it is a garment technologist’s role to oversee sealing of pre-production and production samples.
The merchandising in fashion retailing refers to the total process of stock planning, management and control. The role of merchandiser is a senior role, usually of the same status as that of buyer. A merchandiser’s role may be different in different companies. However, there are some key responsibilities which will be analyzed below.
The very first function of a merchandiser is to estimate sales and plan stock levels to achieve the planned sales and margin for a specific garment type. By saying this, it should be understood that the merchandiser must ensure different issues in product range such as the balance of style and colour, size and price point. Also, the merchandiser needs to provide regular analysis and progress reports referring to stock levels, sales performance and stock purchases to senior management. Such progress reports could help senior managers to assess the overall performance of the company. In addition, a merchandiser must work with buyer on range planning to maximize commercial opportunities for products. And finally, it is a merchandiser’s role to manage intake and commitment to accommodate the stock requirements of the business at any given time and the open to buy requirements for the garment type. It will ensure the shops are adequately stocked.
This report focuses on supply chain analysis in fashion industry. The report consists of three parts. The first part introduced the supply chain management, addressing fashion industry. As discussed, different scholars have different ideas of the concept of supply chain management. But basically, it is described as an integration of different players such as suppliers, manufactures which aims to reduce costs while meeting consumers’ needs.
Different companies may adopt different models to manage its supply chain. The report focused on three types of models which are traditional model, simplified model and streamlined model. As analyzed above, traditional supply chain model consists of several players such as manufacturer, agency, head office and retailer. This model is considered very costly because the length from producers to consumers is long. A high cost would be a result of such model. Furthermore, a high cost will lead to a high selling price as the retailer need to make profits. Simplified model is developed based on traditional models. But it could be found that the key players in the chain are fewer. Simplified models are various depending on how business manage its supply chain. The length of the chain if shorter, but it is still considered costly. The last model in the report was streamlined supply chain which is a widely used model nowadays. This is because the model consists of two players which are manufacturers and retailers. Few players in the chain will enable the companies to save much money when producing and delivering products.
The last part of the report identified and analyzed the roles of a fashion buyer, garment technologist and merchandisers. It could be found from the discussion that each player has different roles and responsibilities.
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