Suppliers are implementing different strategies to boost competitiveness. These include reducing lead times.
Intense competition is pushing suppliers of men’s casual and fashion jackets in India and China to strengthen R&D capability. But while India companies are focusing on innovative designs, those in China are reducing sampling times in order to release models at a greater frequency.
In India, suppliers have identified price competition from their China counterparts as a major challenge. Buyers can order a jacket and a pair of pants from China suppliers for $12 to $14. India jackets alone, however, cost as much.
The situation has become difficult for some suppliers, particularly for small makers. Experts believe the industry will consolidate in 2007, as many small companies are expected to close.
But China suppliers are facing price competition as well, this time from manufacturers in Vietnam. Labor costs in Vietnam are about 30 percent lower than in China and, consequently, product prices are less expensive as well. To cut down on expenses, a number of China suppliers have moved part or all of their manufacturing facilities to Vietnam.
Price competition has even led some companies to cut back on low-end models and increase production of midrange and high-end designs.
As part of their efforts to move upmarket, suppliers are investing in R&D capability upgrades. Most of China makers’ R&D teams now are equipped with CAD systems.
A few suppliers, however, are already taking steps to improve design capability. At these companies, ODM orders account for as much as 50 percent of exports. Some of them are even looking at hiring seasoned designers to boost capability further.
But by and large, R&D capability upgrades in China are centered on reducing countersample times, even at large companies. At present, lead times range from five to 10 days, depending on design complexity and material availability. In a year, suppliers can produce up to 28,000 countersamples.
India companies, on the other hand, are working closely with buyers and attending fashion trade shows regularly to stay abreast of trends. This allows them to respond faster to buyers’ needs and come up with original designs that will satisfy their clients.