Be it market pressure or self-aggression, buyers are becoming smart by the day. Their apparel sourcing strategies are changing across the supply chain and they are implementing new ways to remain competitive and ahead as far as garment sourcing is concerned. While some companies are reducing quality control (QC) teams and focusing more on product development (PD), others are winding up own office and thrust on direct sourcing, which are two common threads that have taken place recently and are also likely to increase in the future. Such developments of various brands are impacting opportunities for existing professionals negatively.
These changing strategies are impacting professionals at various levels too, as some of the leading brands now don’t prefer to have their own QC teams because factories are more aware and improved on the quality front. Even if they have a QC team, only few professionals are hired for these teams and to guide the factories’ production people.
“Brands are now certifying QA of the factories which means that these certified QAs are smart enough to ensure quality standard set or required by the specific buyer. It is helping these brands to reduce their costing as now they don’t have to hire many QAs,” said an industry insider who doesn’t wish to be quoted. He further added that one of the leading US-based retail chains which conducts many worker welfare activities has almost closed its QC division or department, and only self-inspection by factory has prevailed. It is also being said that this decision has its own negative impacts with quality being compromised sometimes.
On the other side, it is also being looked like a balancing act, as unlike earlier, brands are investing more in PD at their sourcing destination. So rather than investing in a quality team, their priority is now on PD while earlier their PD was totally driven from their headquarters. But a mid-sized retailer or brand doesn’t even focus on PD. As it is, they have very little staff which is just there to monitor the shipment process and to control factories if any issue arises.
As far as winding up own liaison office and starting direct sourcing is concerned, Fat Face – a British lifestyle clothing and accessories retailer is one of the best examples. The company has more than 200 stores and a fast-growing e-commerce operation. It started its India office in 2007 and continued for more than a decade. While once it had a good sourcing team in India and its business was also growing, it closed its India office.
“We used to source apparel worth US $ 125 million from India. We certified many QCs, and in the long run, factories became independent and our management felt that we are not required. Now a team from the head office manages from the UK and visits frequently,” told a top-level professional on the request of anonymity who served Fat Face for long. He further added that it was a sudden decision and not informed in advance.
With the use of latest technology like monitoring system and data-driven software, most of the companies are now hiring such expert professionals who can manage the control of many factories unlike previous times when the companies needed to have an army of professionals to get their shipment complete as per the specified standards. Thus, dependency of brands/ retailers on dedicated professionals for various processes is reducing with every passing day with increased application of technology and automation.