Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Michael Schlossberg, senior vice president of business development at packaging, trim and hanger firm Sourcing Solutions International, which works with Gap, JCPenney and Hudson’s Bay, shares what fashion can learn from food and how his company is making hanger shipping more sustainable.
Name: Michael Schlossberg
Title: Senior vice president of business development
Company: Sourcing Solutions International
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
The food industry probably is the best—they need to be the best. At SSI, we assist our customers in developing solutions around hangers, labels, hangtags, RFID and PDQs (product data quality)—items that don’t expire. In food, when they make a mistake, the mistake has the potential to make people sick and you can ruin customer confidence. In foods, when there is an issue, it also usually means a costly recall.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I am not picky. I like to be stylish but more importantly, comfortable. I like to pack light when I travel, so versatility is big, as I may rotate only a few shirts and pants on a business trip. Pants during the workweek are pants during the weekend often times.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
I want quality and I’m willing to pay for it—I think most people are. I wear one brand and almost one style exclusively of jeans. I have five pairs of G Star Raw denim’s 3301s. They aren’t cheap at $200 a pair, but they wash well, they age well, they look good, and they fit me great. There are plenty of places to buy a pair of jeans, but these are my go-to. If I find a brand I like, I stick with it until I find something I like better.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
My weekend wear is super relaxed: a T-shirt and jeans. If warm enough for shorts, I wear ones from Huk Fishing—I have this one style in every color. I’ll jump in a pool or the ocean in them, or I can wear them on the golf course or on a hike. Again, versatility! I also like clothes that allow me to be ready for anything, and as a volunteer firefighter/EMT in River Edge, N.J., whatever I’m wearing is going underneath my fire gear. We have to get dressed and ready to roll out of the firehouse in about a minute, so there isn’t time to change outfits.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
I don’t really have one. I enjoy many different styles, and just because I wouldn’t wear something doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s cool or don’t appreciate it. I love the confidence that people have. I think many outfits and styles that people wear are akin to Superman wearing his cape. There is no doubt that certain styles and outfits will almost garner powers or a persona!
Who’s your style icon?
I don’t have one. However, I have always admired Ralph Lauren—he sold ties and built an empire. I also feel that RL, more than others, have stayed true to themselves.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
I would like to back it up even further to decisions made around the start of Covid-19. Our decisions then allowed us to build the foundation to make way for today’s continued success. The focus in 2020 is still the focus today: the whole goal is providing value to our employees and our customers. As a private, well-funded company, SSI choose to invest at risk at the start of 2020. Investments were focused on safety and sustainability; the development of new, innovative solutions to reduce plastic; and expanding our RFID market share. We successfully hit that mark in all three of our focus areas.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
At our core, we are a family company. Our employees generally don’t leave for other companies; we take care of them. Ownership is receptive to new ideas, approachable and they listen!
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
Plan for that rainy day. The world is always changing. You need to change with it or be prepared to be left behind.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
How to save money and become more sustainable—real sustainability that has real impact. Sustainability is a moving target, so companies should do a good job of defining what sustainability means to them, so that suppliers and partners like myself can bring viable solutions that can have serious financial benefit that speak to them.
What keeps you up at night?
How do I reach new decision makers who have the ability to implement change? My only request when I am meeting with someone new is to come into that meeting with an open mind. I think close mindedness in any form is usually a barrier to progress. There is also a lot of misinformation out there, especially around sustainability.
What makes you most optimistic?
I am always optimistic. I think it’s important to be a realist when it comes to a situation, but a negative outlook doesn’t help anyone of anything. Let’s assess the situation and make the best decision we can, given the most accurate information we have on hand at the time. A good decision yesterday may not be a good decision today.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
Many exciting items, but my most exciting product is our “collapsible hook” hanger solution for retailers and brands. In most all cases, it is cost neutral, assists with meeting sustainability goals and provides cost savings in transport fees. Sustainability and cost savings are not things that usually go hand-in-hand.
The solution reduces raw material in shipping through smaller shipping boxes, reduces carbon footprint by using less containers and trucks, and offers massive freight cost savings by creating 20 percent more space on average in a container through reducing shipping cartons by 20 percent.