Sourcing wholesale clothing that appeals to either specific market segments or tracks style trends has always been a challenge for those who manage either online or bricks and mortar retail operations. However, that task is set to become a lot more challenging due to the effects of the Coronavirus on manufacturers in Asia.
It is worth noting that China accounts for 36% of all global exports of textiles and clothing (time to landing in the U.S. – 17 days), with Bangladesh the second largest exporter (with clothing and textile exports of around $28bn per year). Products from Bangladesh take a month to travel by sea to the U.S. Vietnam is the third-largest exporter of clothing and exports take three weeks to arrive on U.S. shores (figures according to research published by re:source – a company supplying intelligence on the garment industry).
COVID-19 is disrupting logistics and the supply chain. Products are taking longer to manufacture and longer to get to target markets – including those in the U.S. It is worth noting that Vietnam is a bright spot – its industry has not been disrupted to the extent of other countries in the Asian region – it has been tremendously successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 and therefore does not face the same level of challenges that are affecting the rest of the region.
So what does this mean for those in the U.S. garment retail industry that relies heavily on Asian manufacturers due to cost and efficiency considerations?
Firstly that forward planning and focused trend analysis is becoming ever more important. Disruptions to the supply chain can negatively impact on time to delivery. One of the greatest challenges facing those who rely on wholesale clothing to fill the shelves of their stores (virtual or otherwise) is keeping stock levels of those items that are in demand due to style preferences at a level that does not risk overstock. The sweet spot between optimal stockholding and having products sit on shelves until it must be sold at a significant discount is an ever-moving target. The current supply situation is only going to complicate matters.