Finding the right suppliers got just a little easier thanks to the matchmaking efforts of Cotton Council International (CCI).
At the recent COTTON USA Sourcing Fair (Macau, April 9-10) buyers found a targeted group of high quality suppliers that were pre-selected based on their specific requirements.
"We find this fair to be very well organized. It’s a close knit group of very select buyers and suppliers - the people we meet here are serious, they are very focused, so it makes it easier to understand the buyers and sellers and to have meaningful discussions. Both sides understand each other's requirements," said Deepesh Singhania, Deputy General Manager, Garment Sourcing at Raymond Apparel Ltd. (India).
Brands are challenged to find new suppliers, especially outside of China. However buyers have less time then ever to research and meet with mills and manufacturers.
“I like the direct contact with suppliers. I can source many kinds of cotton products here. Because there are so many suppliers in one place, I can quickly meet with many factories and mills and see if they have the products we need,” Maria Cejudo, China Sourcer from Coppel (Mexico), told Inside Fashion.
“We can catch up with a lot of new suppliers here. It’s easy to reach a lot of the right people, then my regional team will follow up with them,” said Angie Chan from Puma, adding that she was looking for fabric, but also garment capacity as well.
The fair also enabled participants to discover vendors who might not have otherwise crossed their radar.
“I found a spinner who normally supplies woven mills, but it turns out they are able to provide us with the kind of yarn we need for knit garments,” said Brad Fu, Sales Director at Goldfame Enterprises (Hong Kong), a company that manufactures knit garments in Cambodia.
While the brands at the event already have strong vendor bases, most said that they were also looking for new suppliers - often times in countries where they were less well established.
Seeking to Expand Vendor Bases
“We have a very stable supplier base,” said Virginia Man, Director of Global Sourcing - Asia from Destination XL (USA), “however we’re always looking for new ones that have good potential.”
“We're looking for fabric suppliers outside of China because we want to be less dependent on China,” said Ryan Ko, Fabric Manager - Wovens at American Eagle Outfitters (USA). “It’s very useful to be at this fair because we're able to connect with a lot of very good quality vendors and find some new supplier here.”
“Many of the mills in Southeast Asia are less efficient, less innovative, and have less capacity than Chinese mills. It's also harder to control those mills from Hong Kong so you have to figure in the cost of QC and QA. In China we have a long term relationship with our mills. We have an understanding with them. So it's easier. Not that Chinese mills don't ever make mistakes, but because we've been working with them a long time we understand each other better. Now we need to develop this kind of relationship with mills in Southeast Asia,” he told Inside Fashion.
“Vietnam is the superstar right now but it's getting competitive. We’re manufacturing there mainly for exports to Europe.,” said Angie Chan from Puma.
“Indonesia is interesting because it has lots of labor, but the fabric supply is limited. Also the skills are not as good. But it has the advantage of being in Asia and so we just need to develop it more.
“We're also looking for high end suppliers in Japan and Korea because we want to be able to get more innovation. The innovation drives the business. The commodity items are where we make up the volume. For commodity items we need capacity,” she said.
“Right now, China sourcing is more ‘local for local’,” she added.
“We’re very positive about Myanmar,” said Toiny Pang, Technical Specialist at Marks & Spencer, talking about how his company is managing risk by diversifying their sourcing into more nations.
“We feel that Myanmar has improved in terms of the political situation, sustainability, and some of the ethical aspects. In some ways it's better than Bangladesh. The infrastructure is safer and treatment of workers is more ethical,” he said.