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Supply crisis isn’t made in Britain

Jessica Brown

It’s all about managing the supply chain. That’s been the theme of so many of my conversations with readers this week who are scrabbling around to replenish autumn best-sellers, be they aviator coats, faux-fur jackets or ankle boots.

It’s all about managing the supply chain. That’s been the theme of so many of my conversations with readers this week who are scrabbling around to replenish autumn best-sellers, be they aviator coats, faux-fur jackets or ankle boots.

Most high street retailers undercooked it on key items for autumn, staying so far over the line of safe that they have severely impeded potential sales growth.

Similarly, brands have under-bought, anxious not to end the season with a warehouse chokka with stock. The losers here? The cautious indies and department stores left with gaps in their ranges. Turning the tap back on just isn’t as easy as it was a few years ago.

The growing domestic retail market in China is hoovering up manufacturing capacity, on top of the fact Chinese factories are facing worker shortages and massive hikes in labour charges thanks to the likes of Apple, which has inflated the wages and ambitions of factory workers in the country.

Prices of raw materials are also rocketing. Unless you are willing to accept a lower-grade leather for your shearling-trimmed ankle boot repeats, it’s almost impossible to capitalise on demand.

The pendulum of power is swinging back to the manufacturer. How and when deliveries arrive (one multiple shared with me the depressing news that his first order of coats won’t hit stores until November because of supply chain issues) is going to be totally dependent on brands’ and retailers’ ability to flex their sourcing.

I wouldn’t go as far as Pavers chief executive Stuart Paver (p46), who this week forecast that the UK would be manufacturing footwear again within 10 years (though that would be nice), but there is something to be said for looking closer to home when there’s a fashion fix like this.

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