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, Yossi Nasser, CEO of intimates manufacturer and supplier Gelmart International and founding partner at FullStride Ventures, explains the opportunity to trim lead times in pre-production and how Covid travel declines raised the need for supplier-retailer trust.
Donny Greenberger, chief operating officer of Gelmart International, also discusses Gelmart’s new sustainable product launch with Walmart.
Name: Yossi Nasser
Company: Gelmart International
What’s the number one question you get from your clients now that was never really a consideration before?
Yossi Nasser: To name four: What are your lead times? Where are your factories located? Where do you get the materials from? If volume meets or exceeds plan, can you give us a commitment that you will be able to ship x amount of goods within a timeframe?
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?
YN: We put infrastructure in place to ensure work flexibility and agility through a hybrid work-from-home and office model. Some meetings need to be physical and in-person to generate a team atmosphere. However, other meetings that we used to have involving individual-based work are better canceled and more effective from home.
Whether material or production, it’s important to own more of our supply chain and rely less on a third-party, geographical sourcing concentration.
We also introduced more team meetings due to the pandemic. Having regular team meetings as a temperature check and monthly strategic meetings are essential for culture.
We’re also allowing for more outside party support, including executive coaching and other HR tools that could be remote.
How are you evaluating potential brand and retail partners differently now compared to before the pandemic?
YN: Because of limited supply chain and infrastructure capacity, we focus on brands that allow us to have more “skin in the game,” as well as those that we feel will endure and succeed in the long run—even when the effects of the pent-up demand phenomenon we’re experiencing fades.
People and technology will always be a capability and resource that we will always look to when investing.
What is the main thing brands and retailers could do (or stop doing) right now that would immediately improve product development?
YN: Shorten lead times to get product faster into the market. This includes lead times from material procurement to boat or air shipments, etc.—all across the supply chain.
Retailers and brands are always looking at the post-product development phases to compress lead times. They are missing a significant opportunity to shorten it during the pre-production phases. There are technologies out there that exist to expedite this process and touch on multiple product development lead time calendar points. Looking more into these technologies is vital, and going away from the concept of “It worked for x, so surely it will work for us” mindset. Be ahead of the game, as it could also help on response time for the product to be available for sale, resulting in better sales performance.
They should also work with strategic suppliers they trust and give them more leeway to approve fits and color. The more checkpoints you put on a calendar, the more complex it will be. In a day and age of speed to market that we foresee will become even more crucial, this is a simple but effective way of reaching the light at the end of the tunnel with a quality product.
How are you adapting your operations to support quick-turn, small-run orders?
Donny Greenberger: In order to support quick turn and small-run orders, we own our own factories and have focused on influencing our own supply chain in order to adapt quickly.
In this challenging retail environment, how are you working with clients to balance sustainability needs with cost efficiency?
DG: We have partnered with our customers to build exclusive brands for the changing environment. We recently launched Kindly, a sustainable intimates brand with the first ever plant-based bra made with sugarcane. We partnered with Walmart and are selling exclusively in 3,300 Walmart stores and on Walmart.com. The brand is rooted in being kind to the planet, the body and one’s Walmart. It’s our goal with Kindly to make sustainability accessible.
How has Covid enhanced your remote collaboration capabilities? Which piece of technology or innovation have you found most useful during this time, and what remaining hurdles still exist in managing projects with limited travel?
YN: We invested in Microsoft Teams before the pandemic as a collaboration tool, and that investment has paid off significantly for us. We also use collaboration tools such as Monday.
Limited travel means putting more faith in your supply chain partners. If you have the right matrix and relationships, this would’ve paid off during the pandemic, and in fact, become a competitive strength.
From a sourcing standpoint, a remaining hurdle is finding new suppliers—both material and production. If you can’t visit their facilities, this hasn’t emerged as a significant issue, as capacities in many production sites have diminished, meaning retailers and brands have less of a choice of supply partners to chose from. Still, it could become one if that stabilizes.
What is the best decision your company has made in the last year?
YN: It always starts with people. We’re proud of the executive hires and promotions that we’ve done over the past three years, as well as employee retention.
However, from a strategic standpoint, it’s expanding ownership and influence over our supply chain and investing time and resources into new technologies disrupting the supply chain and direct-to-consumer lifestyle brands.
What keeps you up at night?
YN: It changes every week, but right now, it’s supply chain.
What makes you most optimistic?
YN: The brands and retailers we partner with are forward-thinking and eager to introduce new ways of doing things into their matrix.
We may have hit the threshold of alignment between consumers, brands, retailers, and manufacturers on getting fashion right in terms of sustainability.
What’s in store for Gelmart in 2021?
YN: After launching two brands, we’re about to launch another DTC brand that we’re very excited about. This one has been in the works for a few years and will also leverage the sustainable technology we’ve been investing in. We’re highly excited about the brand and its ethos, as it goes hand in hand with Gelmart’s values.