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Sourcing Journal Editorial Staff on What to Watch in 2023

As we look ahead to 2023, Sourcing Journal’s editorial staff offers up predictions of what to watch in the next 12 months.

Jasmin Malik Chua, Sourcing and Labor Editor

The outcry from workers in disparate garment-producing countries around the world will become a unified chorus as their existential struggles become more acute in the face of rising inflation and flagging demand in the West. The industry’s dearth of living wages will come under the klieg lights, as will poor purchasing practices that squeeze margins beyond what suppliers can bear. The call for legally binding agreements over voluntary commitments will likewise become more vociferous. Brands and retailers will find the public scrutiny that stems from all this difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. Whether they can see workers as more than mere units of productivity, on the other hand, is another matter altogether.

Angela Velasquez, Executive Editor, Rivet

Purple and emerald will overtake pink—finally. As street style in major fashion hubs become over stylized, designers will turn to the suburbs and smaller cities for creative inspiration. Brands will find greater value in laser finishing by layering techniques to create unique textures. Biodegradable claims will be put under the microscope. Brands ditch celebrity endorsements to avoid controversies. The pop-punk aesthetic of the late 90s and 2000s will be the next nostalgic trend clothing Gen Z. The U.K. emerges as a hub for denim laundry. More denim mills align themselves as consumer-facing brands. And all eyes will be on the 501. 

Vicki M. Young, Executive Financial Reporter

Supply chain issues resulting from Covid and 2022’s inflationary landscape and its impact on consumer spending have created numerous challenges for retailers and brands over the last few years. But inflation’s impact and the shift in what consumers are buying are likely what will cause retailers to become more cautious as they buy closer to need in 2023. That shift in their buying mindset could be the impetus needed that finally gets both retailers and brands to become more serious about near-shoring options.

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Glenn Taylor, Business Editor

Labor shortage concerns are already forcing retailers to rethink how they approach automation across their warehouses and distribution centers. The decline in warehousing job applicants only compounds the current economic situation, which indicates that layoffs could be a greater concern in 2023—thrusting robotics technology into the fold as a serious and increasingly attractive alternative to manpower. One report from Recode earlier this year suggested Amazon’s labor well is drying up, and perhaps not so coincidentally, the e-commerce giant rolled out new autonomous robots in the months after. Expect more apparel retailers to establish—and hype up—their robotics pilots this year.

Matt Hickman, Business Reporter

Much to the chagrin of environmental activists, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) promised revisiting of the Green Guides, for the first time since 2012, will result in a much more liberal interpretation of truth in advertising than they would like. In December, the FTC, under pressure from both sides of the “greenwashing” debate, voted unanimously to revisit the bible of what is and isn’t acceptable in marketing for businesses touting themselves as environmentally friendly. The ubiquitous and heavily saturated use of the term “sustainability,” which doesn’t appear in the current Green Guides, will prompt the agency to essentially throw up its hands and allow much looser language in advertising all the way around. After all, the FTC’s charge isn’t protecting the planet, it’s establishing rules for communication. The result of such a decision is expected to drastically reduce the number of “greenwashing” lawsuits that dominated headlines in 2022, including the dual legal battles keeping H&M busy in court.

Kate Nishimura, Features Editor

Amid rising labor costs, supply chain problems, continued Trump-era tariffs and the arrival of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, China sourcing has become more difficult, costly and risky than ever. As challenges mount, companies will continue to diversify supply chains and consider nearshoring and onshoring strategies. Expect some to forge stronger partnerships in free-trade markets closer to home, while others will divert some portion of their sourcing to domestic producers. This isn’t likely to erode China’s market share overnight, but the nibbling has begun, and will continue in 2023.

Alex Harrell, Staff Writer

Counterfeits could hit a crossroads. While the value of the fake and pirated goods market was up to $3 trillion this year, authentication technology and education is quick on the heels of the underground industry pumping out phony purses, fake in-demand sneakers and other coveted fashion. Plus, the INFORM Consumers Act, which requires online marketplaces to collect, verify and disclose certain information from high-volume, third-party sellers, was passed by the House. The SHOP SAFE Act and its implications for secondhand platforms such as eBay, where people often offload counterfeits, is also in front of the Senate and could give fake makers fewer digital outlets to hawk their wares.