Happy Chau, Director of Sales for OEC Group, discusses supply chain difficulties affecting the fashion industry and offers potential solutions for struggling shippers.
What would you say is the biggest difficulty for shippers in the fashion industry right now?
It’s the unknown. Specifically, unknown transit times. The fashion industry is acutely affected by this unpredictability because retailers rely on both classic and just-in-time logistical models. Just-in-time seasonal fashion and fast-moving high-fashion trends depend on a predictable supply chain. For example, simple t-shirts and slacks have a shelf life of years, but that Mandalorian sweatshirt will only be in-style for so long. If certain products don’t hit the shelves within a certain window, it’ll be an opportunity wasted.
How has the fashion industry been reacting to the start of peak season?
Believe it or not, the industry seems to be having a more intense reaction to the start of school than the start of peak season as of right now. As children return to the classroom, demand for just-in-time clothing with popular prints has increased. Parents are also back to dealing with their children growing out of school clothing – creating a growing need for clothes. This growing need for clothes is compounding upon cyclical increases caused by peak season, tightening the market further.
How has OEC been able to overcome these obstacles and secure space for fashion customers?
We are using our local network in the U.S., as well as extensive OEC contacts in China and Southeast Asia, to secure as much cargo space as possible. Our established connections let us communicate with factories, anticipate delays, and predict any pandemic-related shutdowns on the supply side to build more effective supply chains for our customers.
What are your suggestions for shippers trying to transport product efficiently in this market?
We’ve been dealing with this market every day and these problems are not going away. First, make sure you have a logistical partner that has the experience, resources, connections, creativity, and agility to work in this market. Second, give them your shipping forecasts as far in advance as possible. The more time they have to prepare and comb the market for available capacity, the better your chances are of securing sufficient vessel space and equipment for your goods.