For the third straight year, Stitches has ranked as the Top 25 Apparel Suppliers within the apparel-supply industry. This latest list features some notable differences from past rankings. For example, this year s top finisher, Broder Bros., was bought by the former Ash City (azermiller/mi5) and rebranded asalphabet. It also marked a major shift in the category by including six new suppliers, bringing the total number of retailers represented on this list to 35.
There are a few common threads running throughout the sourcing process of any apparel manufacturer. At the top of the supply chain is the garment maker or manufacturer. From that point, the journey branches off into dealers and wholesalers, all the way down to individual buyers. What most buyers do not see is that part of the supply chain is the step down the supply chain until the final consumer receives the merchandise. This is where a retailer can make the biggest difference in their bottom line. By choosing the right supplier with the right product and price, any apparel manufacturer can greatly increase their profit margin.
For this year’s installment of our Top 25 Apparel Suppliers list, we asked buyers from across the United States what their top suppliers were. While all of our surveyed apparel suppliers had great reputations in our blind taste testing, there were a few standout performers that eluded the others. Three of the six new apparel suppliers included in this year’s poll were from out of state, had relatively few clients and sales volume and one of them was a direct competitor of Broder’s which had only one store in the area. Our results reveal some of the challenges for retailers in finding a high quality provider of apparels.
Retailers need to look at the supply chains themselves. Most apparel suppliers operate large factories outside the United States that utilize sweatshops. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in these jobs. Products made in these plants are sold on products. Those products pass through the hands of major apparel buyers who select the type of material used, cut the pattern, add the finishing touches, sell and distribute to stores.
Apparel is a delicate and often hard to define product. It is often purchased by individuals looking for something fashionable to wear, while others are looking for something comfortable to wear after a workout. When buying an apparels product it is important to find the right apparel supplier who has workers who pay attention to detail. It is equally important to find a company that pays taxes on their products. Broder’s is one of the few apparel suppliers that do both.
We visited four garment factories in Bangladesh during the course of two months, examining over 500 catalogs. Many of the catalogs featured dresses for men, women, and children. One factory manufactured children’s garments, another manufactured garments for corporate employees, and the last factory manufactured professional apparel.
All apparel was made by workers who received above minimum wage, received proper benefits, and were paid a market price for their products. In all cases the workers were paid before they began work, and after they completed the work. The supply chain used a variety of measures to ensure each worker received an appropriate price for their apparel. Apparel Suppliers, like other clothing suppliers decorators, must make certain they have a supply chain that practices pay-for-work rather than pay-for-produce.
Apparel Suppliers and factory supply chain logistics must collaborate with each other in order to improve the conditions of factory workers and to provide decent jobs for garment workers and their families. Companies that care about the people who make their products will find ways to improve working conditions in their own factories. This will attract more buyers, improve sales, and give the apparel industry workers a better sense of job security. These companies will be able to compete with those of Asian countries such as China, which are known for sweatshops and low wages. Companies that care about their own business may adopt a similar approach.