By  on April 27, 2007

MIAMI —­ Improving speed to market is essential to success in today's competitive retail environment.

That was the message delivered by Stuart Goldblatt, senior vice-president and GMM of men's for Macy's Merchandising Group, at the DNR Menswear CEO Summit at the Four Seasons Hotel here earlier this week.

"How long should it take to get product to market," he asked. Currently, most merchandise is delivered to the selling floor 43 weeks from conception.

However, Boeing is able to deliver an airplane within 20 weeks, he pointed out, so it behooves the fashion industry to take a lesson from this industry leader and improve its lead time.

"Speed to market is the number-one challenge," Goldblatt said. By increasing speed to market, he added, companies are more likely to have the right product at the right time and can respond more quickly to market shifts.

"We're so stuck in the mud. we say we're going to change things, but we don't. We need people to forget the old ideas and we need suppliers who supply product differently."

The difference between success and failure in this process, he said, is research and development.

He pointed to Toyota, which set a goal to be the number-one car company, and used "killer research" to achieve that objective. The company's cars have an average turn rate of 27 days, compared to 30 for BMW and 32 for Honda.  American-made cars are even further behind with 82 for Ford, 83 for General Motors and 107 for Chrysler.

"Toyota spends $20 million a day on research and development," he said.  "This is a very progressive, long-term strategy."

"We need to be constantly improving to get to the next level," Goldblatt said.

Bringing it back to the apparel industry, he singled out JA Apparel, whose Joseph Abboud factory in New Bedford, Mass., took a page from the Toyota manual and is working to reduce the time it takes to produce and ship a garment domestically.

In order to compete with overseas labor, which can be three to four times lower than that in the U.S., "major steps" were needed. Spearheaded by CEO Marty Staff, the goal is to bring production time from 10 days to three for made-to-measure suits. By working with the union and enhancing technology, this is a goal that can one day be achieved, the company believes.

Goldblatt implored everyone in the supply chain to do his or her part to change the current reality. This kind of commitment requires a sea change in all parts of the industry and an unwavering focus to achieve the common goal, he said, but the bottom line is that it will ultimately benefit everyone along the way.

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