AAPN Member Editorial: In Turbulent Trade Times, Knowledge Is Power

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This wonderful opinion piece, recently published on the excellent Robin Report is not only authored by our very own Catherine Cole, the driving force behind the cutting edge apparel e-learning system MOTIF but also features insights from some other folks we are all very familiar with…

In Turbulent Trade Times, Knowledge Is Power
JULY 29, 2019 by (AAPN Member) Catherine Cole

Manufacturing has gotten political. Any fashion company relying on stable and consistent trade will be feeling exposed in the era of global tariff wars. The tariffs proposed by the current Trump administration will tax over 300 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese imports — a move, according to the New York Times, that is “catastrophic and cataclysmic.”

The boardrooms of American, and indeed international apparel businesses, who are producing, sourcing, exporting or have any bilateral relationship with China, are bracing themselves for volatile times as optimized supply chain management reaches fever pitch. New strategies must be put in place to ensure reliable trade, as brands are faced with a stark reality: either to accept a blow to profit margins, move manufacturing elsewhere or stop producing. But strategy requires knowledge and expertise. Because any halt to production, a sudden increase in costs or future uncertainty could spell disaster for the bottom line.

Take a Deep Dive into Apparel Costing
So, what is Plan B? Is it indeed closing shop and redistributing the supply chain overnight? Is it nearshoring and returning to local producers despite exorbitant labor costs? These are turbulent times with little room for maneuvering where forecasting and prediction won’t solve complex issues. For any sourcing and buying offices, managers, merchandisers, product developers and tech designers facing these dilemmas, they may do well to take a deep dive into apparel costing.

Product development, like manufacturing, needs to become more agile and technically versatile. The value chain must also constantly evolve and companies must allow for new and innovative processes and upgrades to unfold. How can businesses adapt to a fast-changing and volatile industry? And how important is the need for new and adaptive skills for the greater workforce?

A company’s competitive advantage is always going to be its supply chain — how the links in the chain work together, respond to customer needs, collaborate, flex and pass information along to the next link in the chain. At the heart of all this are people and skills sets. As the industry continues to adapt and evolve at an increasing pace, continual learning has to be part of the job. Those companies that invest in their people with professional development will be the ones that stay relevant and competitive. Read More