By and  on March 14, 2006

NEW YORK — Sourcing executives and government officials gathered here last week to address some of the key issues that will shape the future of manufacturing and supply chain management at the first WWD Sourcing Leadership Forum.

The day-long conference drew more than 100 people and featured speakers from apparel giants such as Liz Claiborne Inc., Nike Inc. and VF Corp., as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative's Office. Themes that emerged included:

  • A consolidation of factory resources.

  • Focusing on top-performing suppliers.

  • Development of mutually beneficial relationships to

    spur growth and protect future business.

  • Improving operations and lowering costs.

  • China's impact on the global economy.

  • Greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility.
Here's what the speakers said:

Bob Zane, senior vice president, Liz Claiborne Inc.

Zane stressed during his presentation the importance of consolidating apparel production at fewer, larger factories that have a bigger stake in the success of Liz Claiborne's brands.

"We have to abandon some of our old habits," said Zane. "This is not the time for country-of-the-month sourcing. This is not the time for factory-of-the-season sourcing and this is not the time for bargain hunting."

Retailers, pressured by increasing competition for a more discerning consumer, have demanded more from their suppliers like Claiborne, which has a portfolio of more than 30 brands, including Juicy Couture, Ellen Tracy and Enyce. Stores not only want well-produced, well-priced fashion, they want to be the only ones carrying individual styles. They want to bring hot looks onto their selling floors that will quickly drive full-price sales.

"Do you remember when we used to quote six- or even nine-month delivery windows?" Zane asked the sourcing executives attending the summit. "Who among you has the courage to do so today?"

In addition to pressures from consumers, policy shifts easing the flow of global commerce and the accompanying rise of China as the world's workshop have forced the brands to evolve.

"Although things are relatively stable and predictable right now, our world is about to change," said Zane.

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