Thesis Details

Thesis Title: Supply Chain Linkages: Opportunities for the U.S. Textile Supply Chain
Thesis Author: Susan Ada Sheek
Abstract: This research provides insight into the linkages that occur within retail supply chains which may provide opportunities for the U.S. textile supply chain. As the retail industry is becoming more consolidated, textile manufacturers are finding themselves competing against each other in order to become suppliers to these vital outlets. Learning more about retailers expectations of their suppliers will help manufacturers understand how they can better position themselves. In order to gain a broad perspective of the current industry this research examined three products in three types of retail stores: denim jeans, activewear, and upholstered furniture in discount, department, and specialty stores. Furthermore, this project examined a range of drivers to determine what effect they have on the success of supply chain configurations. Company-controlled drivers included efficiencies of production (price, quality, delivery), branding and marketing, and services offered to the customer. Community-controlled drivers included energy prices, trade legislation, and labor force availability. Understanding the effects of these drivers will lend greater understanding of successful supply chain configurations. The review of literature identified a conceptual framework that guided the study. Hines and Clarks (1997) Competitive Advantage Model states that improvements of company-controlled drivers and community-controlled drivers can lead to a firms optimal competitiveness. The methodology used in this study consisted of three phases. Phase I used inductive research design to collect quantitative data from secondary sources. Phase II used a deductive research design to collect qualitative data from industry professionals. Informational interviews were conducted in order to gather primary data regarding current retail supply chain configurations. In total, thirty-one executives from twenty-six companies were interviewed. These firms represented fiber, yarn, fabric, cut and sew, and retailers for both the apparel and home furnishings markets. Phase III consisted of an analysis of the aggregate results from Phases I and II. This research indicated that there are some existing strong linkages as well as opportunities for new linkages to occur. There is diversity in supply chains for these three products across retail channels. Discount retailers are most concerned with price and capacity while specialty retailers are looking for full-package garment suppliers. By forming networks among themselves, U.S. manufacturers have the opportunity to meet this demand. Department stores continue to increase private labels creating opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to assist in product development. As reflected in this research, apparel textile supply chains in the U.S. are diverse and struggle to communicate openly. Also, there appears to be a missing linkage between manufacturers in apparel supply chains and retailers. This could present an opportunity for the formation of valuable partnerships that utilize trade legislation to combine U.S. production efficiencies with lower labor wages off-shore for lower total production costs. Home furnishing textile supply chains in the U.S. display strong linkages with more long-term relationships. Yarn availability has been a challenge for upholstery manufacturers and may present an opportunity for U.S. yarn mills to provide specialty yarns. Concerning company-controlled drivers, production efficiencies and customer service were shown to be the most crucial to success. Continuing to improve their services can help U.S. manufacturers build customer loyalty. For community-controlled drivers, utilizing trade legislation to access lower labor costs presents an opportunity for U.S. manufacturers. Recommendations for future research include the examination of different replenishment strategies for retailers as well as the further development of U.S. textile manufacturer networks.