Key Issues While Apparel Sourcing

Key Challenges while Sourcing Apparel and Clothing

For a private label clothing company, sourcing the right manufacturer who can deliver prime products following appropriate requirements on time, is always an active task. For clothing manufacturers, building a relationship with a supplier from whom raw materials and accessories and trims can easily be obtained is another major sticking point.

Sourcing thus is the part of the clothing supply chain that is most critical to success factors while at the same time it is during sourcing, manufacturers face most of the unpredictable changes. A report done by Dr. Wasel Bin Shadat, a lecturer at the University of Manchester, summarized that due to the recent slowdown in sourcing caused by Covid-19, a vacuum of almost $100 billion can arise by 2025 in the Chinese market. 

The notion that Chinese market will suffer a lot developed because of Covid-19 outbreak which led to production stop in China, leading to closures of shop everywhere around the world. The problem was supplemented with cancelled order which became a major concern in many sourcing countries like Bangladesh, China, Cambodia etc. Even though on 8 April, the Sustainable Textile of Asian Region (STAR) Network urged brands to take the impact of cancellation into account, the problem still remain a major one in apparel and clothing market.

Unfortunately, as we have observed that both brands and manufacturers have to encounter serious challenges when sourcing these days due to the dynamic nature of the industry. Today we take a dive into the challenges in the process of sourcing apparel.


Location of production

It is very important to choose manufacturers following ecological geographic settings, so that global demand can be met while the challenges associated with production are minimized. One of such common challenges is the language barrier which oftentimes decreases efficiency due to communication gap.  Not only do important instructions get lost in translations, different time zones make it extremely difficult to synchronize schedules, thus delaying lead time. 

Diversity in fashion around the world also prevents brands and manufacturers from connecting prudently. For instances, a large number of product varieties may cause a loss of uniqueness, different levels of certifications or standards can be a challenge for suppliers, also diversity can be a disconnect when it comes to understanding the customers of the buyer’s market.

Custom Sourcing

A Diverse Set of Raw Materials on Display for Buyers to Choose

Apart from that, the fabric scene, due to its tendency for rapid innovation, changes every now and then. Novel materials often outdate existing garment accessories and as a result manufacturers and private labels have to rethink their offerings constantly. The prime example of that would be the case of biomaterial innovation. The demand for this type of material far exceeds the supply and as such it becomes crucial for manufacturers to take the location of production into account before starting their journey.

But sadly, there is no way one can avoid the location barriers as most North American and European brands source garment accessories from Asian countries due to low costs. Private label owners can, however, consider the extra time that might be required before ordering (considering holidays and other causes of delays) to avoid unnecessary risks.



Instilling sustainability into a supply chain is an important priority for custom clothing manufacturers since buyers prefer sustainability now more than ever . Moreover, the global clothing manufacturing industry ranks among one of the most polluting sectors in the world making it a target for public criticism and accusations. Hence, implementing sustainability and ethical sourcing into the supply chain while managing geographically long and complex global production networks is proving to be quite a challenge. 

Along with that, the utilization of resources in foreign sourcing countries often leads to many environmental and social issues. This presents itself as a major cause of concern for clothing companies due to limited supply chain transparency. 

To meet consumers’ increasing expectations for eco-friendly products, suppliers and manufacturers are struggling to find innovations that can help them achieve sustainability. Prioritizing such products will impact the product design, materials, logistics, and sourcing practices which in turn will require considerable financial investments and other resources. But as it is evident that tough economic conditions are sometimes preferable to private labels, we remain optimistic about the outcome of such sourcing practices. 


Balancing cost, quality, and compliance 

Balancing all the key drivers in an unpredictable market is a major obstacle for most. Prices are rising rapidly while compliance is gaining more importance due to multiple unfortunate incidents in the Bangladesh clothing manufacturing industry. These in turn are forcing buyers to continuously look for new markets. The impact of all these factors is making apparel sourcing much more complex. 

Impossible Trinity of Sourcing

Impossible Trinity in case of Sourcing

Cost- The cost of sourcing from traditional markets such as China and Bangladesh has been on the rise recently in this industry. Retailers constantly look for smarter ways to do sourcing and it is natural to struggle when trying to find the right clothing factory that is willing to agree to your target of costing, while considering global labor-force changes and raw-material price volatility.

Compliance- The textile industry is subject to harshest scrutiny when it comes to health and safety in the workplace. Assuring that ethical and environmental standards are upheld, compliance continues to be one of the most important aspects of sourcing. 

Quality- It goes without saying that high-quality products are what brands always look for. This in turn leads to the manufacturers sourcing first-rate raw materials and accessories as it can make the entire production process more efficient and decrease defect rates in the finished goods. Sub-standard products can often cause customers to return large quantities which puts the company at great risk of loss or in severe cases, closure.

In a world where consumer demand for high-quality garments at a low cost is sky-high, brands and manufacturers must consider every strategy to provide premium garments while balancing all these aspects. Even in some cases, it is better to turn to custom sourcing rather than relying upon manufacturers. 


Lead Time

In Simple terms, Lead time is the duration from the beginning of the order to its completion. This is imposed on the supply chain by the competitive environment of the industry due to the increasing demand of customer expectations. It is undoubtedly one of the controlling factors of a company’s reputation and development as the ability to deliver quickly boosts export, sales, and hence, revenue. 

 It is pivotal for a company to complete an order in the timeframe to meet customer demands properly. Inefficiency in planning, backdated production systems, and low productivity can be a few of the reasons for the increase in lead time. In consideration of such issues, choosing a receptive manufacturer who will be able to accommodate changes is what one should definitely opt for.

 Fashion trends change rapidly with seasons and occasions; as a result, apparel and clothing retailers are always under a pressure to supply the desired products to consumers before the style is outdated. This in turn means competitors that cannot deliver products and services within the established lead time are more likely to perish.



The biggest problems in the logistics sector come from its fragmentation nature. It is almost impossible to have control over all the steps that build the logistics in a company due to the huge number of parties involved along the way. 

Communication gap due to International sourcing and disorganization are the origin of most problems here. Delayed, lost, or inaccurate information can cause issues in customs clearance and, eventually, delivery to destination. This is where the absence of logistics knowledge in low-cost developing countries becomes a cause for concern. Thus, systematic sourcing must be done in order to prevent such issues. 

The textile industry gives rise to many other minor challenges along with these major ones but the right sourcing decisions are bound to generate great results. Therefore, it is critical for both the brands and manufacturers to be properly familiar with these obstacles before sourcing raw materials and garments accessories. The concern should be even more realized if online sourcing is being practiced. In this case it is definitely better to have an intermediate organization overseeing quality control and other aspects to generate a better sourcing experience.