Very high levels of stock at European fashion brands is pushing brands to reduce order volumes, a situation which favours local sourcing.
Clothing manufacturers from the Euro-Mediterranean zone, gathered at Proximity Manufacturing, confirmed this at the February show. As short circuit players, they can react quickly to trends and deliver small volumes rapidly, meaning as soon as the stock in the shops starts to fall. “There’s a return to the short term, because it allows order writers to commit to budgets less in advance, to have more reactivity,” says Sophie Lesieur, fast-fashion consultant and head of See by U, based in Tunisia.
This strategy is currently necessary because “the fashion market is strained”, says Zakaria Ghattas, sales and marketing director of Moroccan denim specialist Blue Fingers. “In France, for example, our customers are asking us to help them get through this difficult time, which has been worsened by repeat demonstrations by the ‘yellow vests’,” says Hakim Hamdouch, director of Morocco’s Dounitex.
In other cases, uncertainties tied to Brexit are put forth to explain the necessity of reducing orders, and ordering within a short time frame.
Given this context, proximity subcontractors are anticipating that they will have to revise their minimum order quantities to satisfy their clients. At Blue Fingers, the company is ready to meet requests for 200 to 500 pieces. “This is a service that overseas export, which is based on volume savings and is monopolized by big companies like Zara, can’t offer. But for brands without similar resources, offering short collections makes it possible to react quickly,” says Zakaria Ghattas.
For local sourcing, fashion is dictating research more than ever. “In the long term, no one takes risks anymore. It’s all basics. Price dictates all the choices. Just look at how polyester fabric is currently trading at the same price as viscose,” says Sophie Lesieur (See by U). This difference in approach doesn’t stop price from playing a role in the short term. And each country emphasises its strengths. At Dounitex, the company underlines the closeness of Morocco for the delivery of small series. The same thing with Tunisia, especially since the dinar is falling, reports TFH. Bulgaria also wants to show how competitive it is. “Transport is easy, there’s no customs. And we can deliver in a week,” points out Radina Bankova, head of Kris Fashion Industries, which is part of a cluster of Bulgarian manufacturers showing for the first time at Proximity Manufacturing. And when prices are too high, solutions are sought from companies such as Portugal’s R. Lobo, where the cuts and number of seams can be simplified to rebalance costs and align with the competition. Innovation is also a way to stand out. Turkey’s Gurmen Group showcased its pants and jackets with warming belts at the show. Further proof of the fact that proximity means, above all, creativity.