Michael Hillmose, export manager of DM&T talked with us about choices brands can make to build a strong and transparent relationship with their suppliers.

Building a strong relationship with your suppliers is a necessary choice to make

It can be challenging to focus on the production pace without losing track of suppliers in a dynamic environment as the fashion industry. And as a brand, it is important to make the right choices, at the right time. We talked with Michael Hillmose, export manager of DM&T, about this and much more.

Stary by educating internally, including your suppliers

Some things are easier said than done, especially managing safety, quality, and CSR. According to Michael, the pressure is high for both clients and suppliers: “Customers demand faster delivery and lower prices while still maintaining the proper CSR conditions. And the suppliers are fighting with changes in the raw-material prices, wages, and various costs.”

Considering the market situation, Michael has noticed an increased attention towards quality products to meet CSR demands in the fashion industry. He explains that transparency, quality, and CSR are steadily growing as key factors to maintaining a healthy relationship with suppliers.

Additionally, he emphasizes that promoting a stronger collaboration with suppliers is the best thing fashion companies can do, by introducing quality-programs and training (both internally and externally).

Keep developing current relationships with your suppliers

The price-pressure issue in retail is not new but according to Michael, brands have been skilled at cutting those costs off: “Fashion companies find new markets where they can produce at a lower cost but that possibility is gradually getting smaller”. As he points out, “The best solution seems to be developing your current supplier if there aren’t any notable costs surrounding moving the production”.

So before changing supplier, evaluate current relations and consider maintaining cost-focused suppliers to communicate transparency and enroll a higher control of your brand and products.

Manage your production wisely

The fashion industry is calling for loyal suppliers and top flexibility to gain competitive strength. Unfortunately, not all brands have the resources and power to achieve such competitive advantages through their suppliers. At the same time, popularity in certain production areas raises the competition which eventually could lead to lower prices.

Furthermore, the challenge is to manage suppliers when spreading production and design across borders. Therefore, a structured PDM strategy is now more important than ever, as Michael elaborates with the example of a general trend in the European market: “In Europe, the development has been going in one direction the past couple of years – and that’s towards a larger production of basic items in Asia, with less specialized production within or around the borders of EU.”

A necessary choice

There is no time for mistakes and waste of valuable resources when it comes to production. It is crucial to take an active role in supplier control and PDM. Michael clarifies that by implementing a PDM system, transparency and management of each deliverance will be easily achieved and combined to improve quality control.

We recommend the following steps for managing your production flow and develop your relationship with your suppliers:

  • Build a stronger relationship with existing suppliers and evaluate cost vs. long-term assets before changing your supplier.
  • Increase transparency by incorporating a space for knowledge sharing and a single source of documentation.
  • Incorporate structures to keep track of your process and workflow when sourcing your production, to maintain lower prices while keeping a consistent service and quality.