ISLAMABAD-In past few decades, consumers’ demand has made the supply chain management of fashion industry more challenging. Fashion, apparel and textile supply chains are becoming extremely complex. This industry has an unpredictable and a very short life span which needs to refresh fashion products in a timely and efficient manner.

It implies reducing lead time and associated logistical costs in order to avoid an intense reduction in prices at the end of selling season due to rapid changes in trends. Today, fashion retailer are facing different risks in maintaining their supply chains with changing trends and awareness of the fashion industry which has high volatility with items’ shelf life of a few weeks before consumer switches to new design, fabric or color. A principal criticalness of fashion lies in the ability of knowing the taste of customer and then converting it into a required product.

Technology is one of the risks that fashion retailers are facing because now consumer can easily compare prices online and wants more time on internet browsing instead of visiting a shopping mall. It has stimulated the fashion retailers to optimize their supply chain activities and setting the prices and due to pressure from price side they start outsourcing from a market with low cost.

Trend assessment is another big risk of the fashion industry and these trends are mostly erratic. A successful clothing store takes advantages on the latest trends and well aware of situations when such trends are on go-down time. A single slip up may lead to excessive inventory, destroying credibleness and chaotic brand identity for the store, consequently may prove disastrous in the clothing business.

Stores may avoid stumbles by hiring experienced people, to go for reputable brands and purchase of commercialized clothing. Another possible risk is from off shoring trend; from one side it assures a significant cost advantage but from the other it contributes to lengthy lead times. This may lead to replenishment time extensions and therefore a lot of trouble in timely responding to the delays along the chain or change in the demand. There are also some legal and political factors which affect businesses in the clothing industry.

Rights of workers, child labor laws, workers union are exiting issues in clothing manufacturing plants. Workers may picket their employers and then lockouts would come up, due to unfairness in wages or other benefits which impacts on the production of clothing and consequently it can cause delays for retailers in getting changing season fashions on time.

Due to the adoption of conventional semi-permanent demand forecasting, any change or fluctuation may lead to overstocking, as product quickly becomes obsolete or out of fashion. On the other side under-stocking may be faced which may lead to decrease in actual volume of sales resulting in destruction of image and lost sales. There is still lack of educated and skilled labor in textile industry of Pakistan. There are many social and environmental challenges in Pakistani factories which have always been difficult to detect. Beyond tier 1 or 2, it is not easy to oversee adequate transparency in the production processes where businesses may not be aware of social and environmental issues.

Negative attitude towards female labor and unsafe working conditions in our garments’ industry is common. These kinds of problems have impact on quantity, quality and management of textile industry. Also, a government order imposing a trade barrier against a company’s imports would push purchasers of clothing industry to find different suppliers. There are many textile fashion brands which are manufactured in Asian countries like Pakistan, China, India and Bangladesh with a fashion cycles of once or twice per year, which is favorable to some extent for Pakistani market to respond to their lead time. Lead time in textile and fashion business of world indicates that it is shrinking day-by-day. China is giving tough competition to apparel industry of developed countries because Chinese are proficient to manufacture apparels in a short period of time and then make available them to sell in the market on competitive price. But in many developing countries like Pakistan, apparel industries are mismanaged and not yet fully developed.

Big fashion industries like Zara and H&M have achieved very short lead times for design and production by adopting a flexible supply chain. It is important for Pakistan’s fashion industry to focus on developing the apparel sector in order to raise the export revenue from textile and apparel products. Externally, global recession hit the Pakistan’s textile industry very hardly. Internally, immediate rise in the energy and fuel cost results in high cost of production and then depreciation of Pakistani currency has raised the cost of imported raw material. At the same time, inflation and crises of energy have also affected the textile industry. To improve performance on productivity and quality, government should spend money on polishing the skills and management development of workforce belonging to fashion industry. Behind the success of largest fashion retailers in the world, key to success is to bring the correct products to customers at an accurate time in an efficient manner so that those products are sold at ordinary price with minimum reduction of price or sell-outs, so to get high profit objectives. In order to reach this goal, large fashion retailers combine domestic as well as off-shore sourcing to optimize business profitableness by using flexible sourcing for high fashion products domestically and cost efficient offshore sourcing for basic fashion products. To develop a sound supply chain policy of fashion industry that is holistic in its approach, it is imperative to have authentic data and a continuous interaction among stakeholders within domestic and international market.

–Bahria University