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Upstream Focus: 707 International’s Sean Coxall on Sourcing Destinations, Demand Chain & the DTC Difference

Upstream Focus is Sourcing Journal’s series of conversations with suppliers, associations and sourcing professionals to get their insights on the state of sourcing, innovations in manufacturing and how to improve operations. In this Q&A, Sean Coxall, CEO of garment and accessory sourcing firm 707 International Limited, discusses the appeal behind different sourcing locations and why his company is adding DTC brands to its roster.

Sean Coxall 707 International Limited
Sean Coxall, CEO, 707 International Limited Courtesy

Name: Sean Coxall

Title: CEO

Company: 707 International Limited

What’s the number one question you get from your clients now that was never really a consideration before?

There are not really any new questions, but speed, price and low MOQs (minimum order quantities) are the most important factors in the supply chain today. The world is now more competitive than ever before, so brands and retailers must ensure they have fashion-right, relevant product at the right price.

Which processes have you put in place due to Covid that you’d like to see continue even after the health crisis is behind us? 

The biggest change is the use of Zoom rather than physical meetings. When we think how much time we all spent traveling, sometimes for just one or two meetings, and for the last two years these have all been conducted virtually. We have achieved the same if not better results, so I am hoping we can continue to use Zoom and only travel for a block of time when meetings can be consolidated. The other big process change is the use of video for things like approval submits and fittings rather than sending physical lab dips and fit samples. Again, I hope this can continue.

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How are you evaluating potential brand and retail clients differently now compared to before the pandemic?

We have expanded our client base to include the direct-to-consumer channel where there are now many new players. DTC brands are growing fast and understand what their consumers need. They’re also using a lot of data to make their decisions better than traditional wholesale brands who are not directly in touch with consumers.

As the apparel industry tries to overcome its Covid stock issues, how can supply chain partners improve inventory management?

The best solutions are to platform fabric and chase products rather than buying too much up front. By platforming fabric, brands can quickly change style, reacting to sales and fashion trends.

What should be brands’ and retailers’ top lesson from Covid? How can they address this in their operations?

The ability to work remotely and have virtual meetings rather than everyone have to be in the same physical location.

How are you working with your factories to support quick-turn, small run orders?

We have a large factory base, which includes some small- to medium-size factories who have very fast turns and can manage smaller MOQs.

Which new sourcing regions are you either considering or ramping up today? Why?

There are not really any new regions, but we are making sure each region is used best to match its capabilities: China for speed and lower MOQs, Vietnam for speed and price, and Bangladesh for large buys and price.

As you’re considering where to source, what are your top considerations today?

Speed, proximity to raw materials, shipping times and MOQs. Speed is the name of the game, allowing you to make your decisions as close to the season as possible, buy a small test and then chase the best sellers and get back in season.

What keeps you up at night?

Worrying when we can get back to a Covid-free world and not face lockdowns or closed borders, as this has caused a lot of extra stress on deliveries.

What makes you most optimistic?

Some of the top countries we sell to are now moving to a “living with Covid” policy, reducing the risk or more restrictions and shutdowns. This gives consumers confidence to spend again and should help the world to return to some kind of normal

What’s in store for 707 International in 2022?

We will continue to develop our “demand chain,” helping our customers to chase product through the system, eliminating waste and markdowns. We’re changing lengthy processes and focusing on an agile, fast decision-making process with local approvals and empowerment, eliminating overlap at the front end, leaving the brands to focus on selling and marketing, which is what they are best at.