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How the Pandemic Strengthened Sourcing Relationships

Of all the takeaways from the pandemic period, one of the most crucial is the value of strong partnerships.

Fabric sourcing firm Concept III has seen firsthand how the trials of Covid-19—from freight issues to factory closures—have strengthened the working relationships along the supply chain. In its own operations, the U.S-based company has been a trusted source of on-the-ground information for both brands and mills as travel slowed down. Amid factory furloughs and changing personnel, the sourcing agency has also provided consistency and industry knowledge to its partners.

“Because of our long-term relationships and our partners, we are able to give real, truthful, factual information that is allowing the brands to continue to evolve and do their business,” said Chris Parkes, managing partner at Concept III.

During a recent conversation with Sourcing Journal founder and president Edward Hertzman, Parkes explained how his company worked with brands to navigate the challenges of the last two years. He also discussed why working with an agent is smoother than dealing directly with manufacturers.

Outbreaks continue to force garment factories to temporarily reduce their capacity. To meet the necessary order volumes, brands must shift this lost production elsewhere. With these moves, Parkes said brands have recognized the need for consistency and choosing partners that can reliably deliver on certification demands. This is even more critical as brands face increased accountability around sustainability due to their enhanced direct-to-consumer relationships. “Factory sourcing will still be relevant, but not at the same level,” said Parkes. “And the partnerships and the collaboration are really important because you’re getting another opinion, and you actually know that it’s the truth.”

A common misconception about working with a sourcing agency is that it will cost more than going it alone. But in many cases, it can actually save brands money while providing extra value. For instance, an agent might be able to bundle two brands’ fabric orders and get a better bulk deal. There are also operational savings. For instance, Concept III’s mill partner Kingwhale “went out on a limb” and held millions of yards of greige fabric for customers during the pandemic, allowing them faster access to materials when everything opened up again. Looking ahead, Parkes hopes that the industry gets away from a discount mindset and instead looks at the full financial picture.

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The past couple years have made brands more proactive. In the face of continued supply chain disruptions, Parkes has seen customers placing orders or making yarn commitments earlier, and Concept III is working with them to stay ahead.

“As we move out of this, we need to focus on what happened and how we all were able to work together and get through this,” said Parkes. “Let’s use that as a springboard for the industry as a whole to move forward.”

Click the image above to watch the video to discover how Concept III has supported its customers through Covid-19 and what brands should have learned from the pandemic.