GAF: What have been the major challenges of sourcing for the European market?
Louise: To find good quality for low prices. To find this, European brands still source mainly offshore. The three biggest challenges are trust, transparency and time. Time / speed is the “newest” challenge, which leads more and more brands to search for closer sourcing opportunities in Europe.
GAF: How big a problem is globalization, skills & knowledge in sourcing for the EU industry?
Louise: Globalization itself is not the big problem – textile sourcing has been a globalized industry for a while now. Without it, choices and styles would be very limited. And yet, by the same token, globalization brings global competition. Global competition that has the means to understand and train their staff to the newest technology and to use digitization to be always one step ahead. If brands don’t go with time and technology, globalization has the negative effect of very fast replacements.
GAF: How has the European industry progressed in terms of digitization in sourcing?
Louise: Compared to twenty-five years ago, where the fashion industry was mainly driven by producers, retailers and designers, it is now mainly driven by consumers and the use of new digital technologies of all kinds.
Furthermore, consumers are increasingly able to design their own garments by choosing fabrics, colors, prints, style, etc. However, when we take a look further down the supply chain: buyers still primary source analogue. Following recommendations, travel to the various countries to get a better understanding of their potential suppliers and update their in-house excel sheets manually.
GAF: The share of European manufacturers is 17% with countries like Turkey, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria as the top production regions. Do you think that has helped the European brands in any aspect?
Louise: Yes, definitely. Yet, the shift back to these production regions has only really started approx. 15 months ago. We are expecting many more brands to search for European manufacturing, especially those who target shorter lead time and sustainable production. Also, very exciting markets are the Balkans, Ukraine and Macedonian.
GAF: Also, has initiative like Euratex been able to help the manufacturing industry there?
Louise: To be honest, we did not yet encounter Euratex on any sourcing event or fair, nor has any of our manufacturer in Europe ever mentioned them to us, so I guess not noticeably but might be only our perspective.
GAF: Can technology be a major booster for sourcing in the European industry?
Louise: Yes, with regards to the 3 big challenges trust, transparency and time – technology has an answer to all of them and this does not only include the European industry. Will technology in textile sourcing replace touching a garment and the direct contact to your suppliers / customers – at the moment inconceivable.
GAF: Please tell us about FOURSOURCE and its revolution in the sourcing industry?
Louise: FOURSOURCE is the leading B2B sourcing platform for the apparel & textile industry. The innovative start-up is headquartered in Berlin and founded by experienced technology innovators and industry experts. The aim is to make apparel sourcing less costly, safer and to provide solutions that enable all market players to substantially speed-up their cycle time, be on-trend, and to leverage their value proposition to their customers.
The platform matches manufacturers and buyers and creates closeness through digitization. Comprehensive profiles consider hard and soft factors such as detailed sourcing criteria as well as quality or brand positioning. A matching algorithm shows which partners best correspond and automatically ranks search results by relevance. Detailed filter options allow to fine-tune any search. Product images, company news and business opportunities can be viewed and shared. Members can securely connect with each other and follow their updates.
(Buyers with a combined retail volume of more than 30 billion USD and manufacturers in more than 30 countries are successfully using FOURSOURCE. Among the more than 200 buying companies, you will find brands like S. Oliver Group, Kaufhof HBC Europe, Schöffel, ESCADA, Debenhams UK and Ahlers AG.)