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SARS and sourcing

As the global home textiles and decorative fabrics sourcing scenario continues to change on a minute-by-minute basis, there's a whole bunch of stuff that probably will influence this business.

High on the list is SARS.

As China continues as the centerpiece of not just textile production but also SARS, there are a number of elements that must be considered.

The first, of course, has to be SARS and how it will impact sourcing — and pricing. Yes, pricing.

How this will happen is simple. The question is when.

Already there are instances of mills or cut-and-sew suppliers needing to maintain capacity. A familiar refrain? And this was before SARS.

With SARS causing more and more Americans — and other nationals — to back away from product development trips to China, alternative methods are being developed. For instance, witness the Wal-Mart program of having suppliers come here — as well as using electronic communications to conduct business. But there are so many smaller than Wal-Mart customers who don't have the clout— and won't send their people to China.

The result — a lot of overproduction or a lot of unused equipment sitting idle because not all have the power to demand.

The solution — or so many would think — a major reduction in pricing to lure orders. And "lure" a growing number of US textile mavens believe will be the operative word.

Then there are the other considerations that are both political and economic.

Then there is the pure aesthetic piece of the equation — and again, it has to relate to the price/value/fashion formula.

There are those who are beginning to look home again for sourcing. It's not an epidemic of returnees to the domestic fold, but more frequently we are hearing about issues such as quick delivery, quality control and just a better sense of what is happening with product.

It definitely won't reopen the closed manufacturing facilities, and it might not keep some of the marginal ones from closing down. But the issues raised about domestic versus off-shore production certainly will be part of how this business is sourced for years to come.

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