May 11, 2017
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PSF discusses economic environment & millennial consumers

May 11, 2017

The broad themes that dominated the discussions at the Prime Source Forum (PSF) held in Hong Kong recently were economic environment in 2017 given the uncertainties in new sourcing landscape, survival under global political frictions; and getting ready to meet the demands of millennial consumers - an individual who wants to ‘look now, buy now and wear now’.

Around 300 senior executives from global fashion supply chain spread across 20 countries attended the two-day forum.

"Fashions change but change is always the fashion. Fashion is always evolving and continuously gives us new stimulants. To keep up with the fast pace of the fashion sector, one needs to think fast by anticipating, spotting and setting trends; act fast by repositioning for new markets, new strategies, and new mission; and stay fast by maintaining efficient supply chain management and keeping close to suppliers and customers," said Gregory So Kam-leung, secretary for commerce and economic development, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In his keynote address, Colin Browne, president, Global Sourcing of Under Armour, proposed that the world in 2017 can be described through four overlapping themes – 'Regionalisation ’, ‘Made in America’, ‘Connected Consumer’ and ‘Corporate Responsibility’.

He went on to say, "I don’t think, TPP and single trade deals are on the cards, there will be bilateral trade deals but globalisation will slowdown. There are opportunities but as an industry executives need to rethink their traditional low labour cost and long lead time model."

A session on survival under global political frictions and economic uncertainty, dealt on growing political upheavals across the world. The moderator, Christian Ewert, director general, Foreign Trade Association explained, "We advocate against trade barriers, those restrict free trade. 2017 has not started too well for the open trade, as Trump signed to pull out of TPP. Withdrawal is unhealthy and protectionism is against globalisation. In 70s, EU got together, countries had duties over 20 per cent and now it is between 1-2 per cent. Brexit is also raising some question marks; overall, business environment is not easy."

Stuart Cranfield, group head of Supplier Working Conditions, C&J Clark International Ltd explained, "Sourcing in next five years, or by 2020, as it is too soon, will only have evolution and not revolution. Reengineer product and process, partnership approach is going to be more critical. We may not have changed fast but we have changed.’
Cranfield outlined the trends impacting supply chain: faster speed to market, consumer wants to see now, buy now and wear now. There is a demand for broader assortments, smaller runs and personalisation. It is the era of reduced inventories where stores have become extensions of distribution centres. These are driven by technology-led innovation like connected wearables.

The second day began with a keynote address by Dr Arkebe Oqubay, minister and special advisor to the Prime Minister, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Speaking on why invest in Ethiopia he said, "Ethiopia has been recognised as the fastest growing country in Africa. GDP growth is 11 per cent for last 13 years. FDI has been flowing, primarily in manufacturing including from China. It employs active labour force of 50 million who are English speaking, and also produces 100,000 graduates every year. Proximity to the EU, US, Middle East and Asia and duty free access to the US and EU through AGOA and EBA, preferential duty treatment to markets such as China, India, Japan, Canada and Australia are added advantages."

The 2nd World Fashion Design Competition (WFDA) was held concurrently with 12th PSF. It highlighted the collaboration amongst producers, designers and buying offices of multinational brands and e-retailers.

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