What are the biggest challenges facing the global apparel supply chain in 2014? One that stands out is the pressure to deliver on the omnichannel promise. There's a fundamental disconnect between the demands of an omni-channel retail environment working to give consumers immediate results, and an apparel supply chain that is getting longer, more fragmented and more difficult to predict.
Susan Olivier, vice president, consumer goods and retail, Dassault Systèmes, says: “What we are going to see as the biggest single challenge is the confluence of two forces. The first is people expecting ever-accelerating newness in terms of whether it is fashion novelty or fabrics or the latest colour trend. Whatever it is, customers expect instantaneous results.
“But at the same time, in terms of the apparel supply chain, to produce all of that is getting longer and more fragmented and more difficult. Turkey is a perfect example. It is a country that supplies not only its own market but many retailers in Europe and North America. Everybody is waiting for the results of the political elections before they invest. It is slowing everything down in terms of decisions and also how people work.
As India and China are becoming more consumers and not just producers, other countries are becoming more and more necessary for the supply chain, and it's harder to plan and manage all the risks associated with that. For example, risks of delays due to political instability, lack of infrastructure, banking instability, negative weather impacts. We come to a point where it is becoming difficult to plan with a sense of assurance multiple months out.”
The biggest challenge will be changes in business models as consumer demand moves online and competition diversifies, says Anastasia Charbin, worldwide marketing director of fashion and apparel at Lectra. “At the same time, we see companies integrating manufacturing or manufacturers launching brands. At Lectra, over 60 percent of our manufacturing customers in China have launched their own brands, and these include big powerful groups with the potential to disrupt the North American or European markets.
In order to stay competitive, companies must simultaneously manage bottom and top-line activities while not risking current revenues, or potentially worse, the brand itself.”