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Jennifer Marks

The Port of … Las Vegas?

The outlook at the New York Home Textiles Market earlier this month was fair to middling.

While nobody expects to be living in Fat City anytime soon, vendors weren't passing around cyanide pills, either.

It's shaping up to be another challenging year in which ground will be gained an inch or two at a time.

Meanwhile, the industry is wrestling with a host of factors in just dealing with the day-to-day business of getting goods to market.

Not-so-cheap labor: China's growing shortfall in factory workers is putting pressure not only on order fulfillment, but on wages. And the competition is heating up.

One manufacturer recounted how a competitor erected a sign a few yards outside his company's gate offering double the wages paid inside.

Even Wal-Mart's vice president for global procurement acknowledged to USA Today that manufacturing price increases are around the corner.

Your turn: Now that quotas have dropped, well-positioned offshore manufacturers are being asked to start holding inventories and investing in DCs.

This is a costly shift in arrangements many overseas supplies are attempting to fend off — and retailers are saying is inevitable.

“Fashion” cycles: Early reports from the department store world suggest it's going to take some time to get the in-and-out formula right. First story: A supplier discovered that sales during the big promotional kick-off week were zip at nearly half of the doors carrying the ensemble. Reason: Product never made it to the floor. Second story: Notable fashion brand hits the floor, blows out; no product left to fill out the cycle. Now the retailer wants more. Three-month wait.

Timing is everything: With Asian goods flooding into the over-crowded Port of Los Angeles, companies are building up to three extra weeks into their delivery calendars. One supplier reported the L.A. situation has gotten so bad it's sometimes faster to route through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast. Potential signs of back-up are emerging at the air freight in-take station in Alaska, too.

On a related note, a U.S. supplier who has had stateside warehousing for years, said he's cut his in-country delivery time significantly by relocating distribution from the Midwest to Las Vegas. Why Vegas? Cheaper than pricey L.A. Will it become a trend?

Yo-ho, maties …

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