There is a major opportunity for the local clothing, textile, footwear and leather industry to displace imports into SA by competing not on the basis of low wages or prices, but on greater speed and flexibility. To achieve this will require a significant upgrading of local supply chains, but the industry has little alternative — leading global clothing retailers such as Zara and H&M have perfected quick-response (QR) manufacturing and are putting local firms under pressure. The QR model seeks to minimise the lead time between the retailer’s purchasing decisions and those of customers, enabling retailers to observe what’s selling and offer customers more of it. Fashion produced in this way has a higher rate of sale, which allows for increased margins through reduced markdowns and stock-outs (when consumers want a product but there’s no more stock). Over the past decade, domestic retailers that have followed the traditional route — scouring the Far East for the cheapest source of supp...

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