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From catwalk to customer: fashion and its seamless supply chain


The influence and presence of British fashion across the globe is not to be undervalued and the past two decades have seen the UK’s fashion industry grow into one of the world’s leading retail sectors. With the combined value of apparel exports now at an impressive £7.3bn, support from the UKTI and other partners has enabled British designers and manufacturers to reap huge rewards internationally. Moving most rapidly into established and emerging markets, British fashion houses have enjoyed global success in countries including China, Russia and France.

Significant growth in retail e-commerce has served to boost business on home soil as well as strengthen the UK’s relationship with overseas consumers, 65% of which have actively sought out British goods online when internet shopping. As demand continues to increase, the need for “fast fashion” and flexibility in the supply chain is all the more critical in enabling UK fashion brands to deliver quality at an affordable price.

Yet, the complexities involved in the “logistics of fashion” are often downplayed. To help navigate the field, FedEx has put together its top five tips on fashion and textile exporting, offering best practice advice and guidance to make the most of international opportunities.

Make global decisions one step at a time

There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” strategy when looking to enter multiple overseas markets. Each one has its own customs, regulations and code of etiquette – all of which has to be navigated appropriately. In preparing for Fashion Week season for instance, your export strategies for New York, Milan and Paris should all vary, taking into account the different rates and restrictions for each country.

Do your research

Two sets of charges can be applicable during the transportation process, firstly at the point of export and secondly at the point of import into the destination country. Making yourself aware of the transaction costs involved at both ends can help you to plan accordingly. It is important to remember, EU countries are generally regarded as being simpler to trade with compared to countries outside the EU, due to the free circulation of goods. The UK is part of a Customs Union and therefore benefits from restriction-free trade with other EU countries. If you are exporting clothing to the EU that has been processed from imported EU raw materials or goods, you may also be able to obtain additional relief from customs duties. Consider where your goods are made and how much is EU origin, as you may get duty relief from other “preference-giving” countries outside of the EU that favour imports from this area.

Take notice of customs challenges

The transportation of textiles and apparel has specific rules that need to be adhered to. Stating the gender for which the garment is designed is important, as this will impact on the duty rate when travelling across borders. Correct accompanying documentation detailing whether the goods are knitted or woven is also required, as well as their fabric content in percentage by weight. The country of manufacture often needs to be divulged with some countries, namely the US, requiring the manufacturer to be identified via a code or the manufacturer’s full name and address.

Keep clear on cost for good customer service

Larger, multinational companies have been known to absorb customs charges, keeping delivery prices to a minimum and customers happy. Working closely with your logistics provider to make sure parcels come complete with the correct shipping documentation will help you navigate what can be a challenging process.

Be realistic about what you can offer

The size of the UK means you can almost guarantee next day delivery to any number of locations across the country, but reaching far away countries with a pristine product is likely to take more time. As retail e-commerce continues to grow, we are seeing increased demand on the fashion supply chain as brands compete with each other to deliver their latest lines to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Speak to your logistics provider who can advise on likely delivery times based on individual country tariffs and border requirements.

Putting advice into practice

For customer Wool and the Gang, working in an industry where as much as 80% of a business’ total expenditure goes into the supply chain, agile distribution is critical. “Speed to market is essential in our industry, so we need a provider that we can trust to do the job quickly and efficiently, which is precisely why we decided to reach out to FedEx,” said Lisa Rodwell, Wool and the Gang CEO.

In February 2015, Wool and the Gang collaborated on an exclusive range of accessories for one of Britain’s biggest fashion names at London’s esteemed Fashion Week, an event where over £100m worth of orders placed.

FedEx helps Wool and the Gang ensure shipments are labelled correctly in line with the Harmonised Coding System which classifies traded products with names and numbers, supporting the brand in overcoming what might otherwise be a tricky and time-consuming process. By making sure parcels come complete with the correct shipping documentation, Wool and the Gang also knows ahead of time what customs clearance fees are likely to be. This leaves no unwanted surprises for both the business and its customers.

Whether transporting apparel for events of this nature or to retailers around the world, partnering with a trusted logistics provider should be a top priority for those in the industry looking to capitalise on global opportunities. We hope considering some of our advice points will ensure budding designers and brands make a truly global fashion statement all year round.

David Poole, MD UK Sales, FedEx Express

Published on Tuesday 07 April by Guest Piece

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