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May 3, 2010
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Apparel industry leaders address concerns at 5th edition of Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong

Published
May 3, 2010

As the world continues to wrestle with the ongoing impact of the global financial downturn, more than 400 senior executives from over 20 countries representing all sectors of the apparel industry supply chain gathered at the end of March in Hong Kong for the fifth edition of Prime Source Forum (PSF).

Prime Source Forum
Nancy Nord

Welcoming delegates to this year’s annual meeting, Michael Duck, Director of the event organisers, APLF Ltd, commented: “This year’s Forum will inevitably focus on the effect the world financial crisis has had on this multi-million-dollar industry and the steps it is taking as part of the worldwide drive to make manufacturing and retailing more sustainable.

“We are also delighted to welcome many new faces this year, in addition to the many regular attendees, confirming that the Forum is now established as a must-attend event for the industry’s movers and shakers from all over the world.”

Demonstrating the pivotal role that PSF plays in bringing apparel industry experts together, more than 70 panelists, each a specialist in his or her area, participated in this year’s event, discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. In addition, one day prior to the actual Forum, two workshops addressed two major operational issues – sustainability and the increasingly important role that technology is playing for both manufacturers and retailers.

Giving the opening address at the workshops, Nancy Nord, US Commissioner of Product Safety, said: “I think it’s very appropriate to be talking about safety as we kick off this conference. At the end of the day, all of us here in this room want to sell the goods and services we make at a profit and you’re not going to be able to do this if your business has to sustain the cost of a product recall, product liability suit or the damage to a business’s reputation that comes with the public knowing that you make an unsafe product, so safety really is at the core of any discussion about sustainability.”

Prime Source Forum

The following day, Andrew Y. Wu, Group Director of LVMH China, opened the Forum with a keynote address in which he offered valuable insights on future markets and highlighted current consumer trends in China in his presentation entitled “Cultural Understanding of China in Rapid Transformation - Beyond Luxury Consumption”.

This was followed by seven PSF sessions, each dealing with one of the major issues confronting the global apparel industry (see Appendix for the full programme). These included the threat of protectionism, which was commented on by Janet Fox, SVP, Director of Sourcing of JCPenney and Chairman of the USAITA, who stated that, despite the threat, it was unlikely that there would be any sudden changes in trade polices affecting the textile and apparel trade between the US and Asia, and in particular China. “I don’t think the US consumer is ready to pay higher prices for the apparel and textiles made in China that tighter trade polices could mean,” said Ms Fox.

Henri Mura, Executive Chairman of the VIPTEHUI Group, told the audience that on-line retailing was an effective way of reaching increasingly sophisticated consumers. He noted the many opportunities online purchasing had presented for young mainland companies to build their own brand names due to the absence of available US and European brands in China. “There is a rapidly increasing number of consumers who choose to purchase goods, such as apparel, via the Internet rather than through traditional brick-and-mortar retail,” Mr. Mura told the audience.

In addressing the question as to when global consumer levels of purchasing would return to the levels experienced prior to the global financial downturn, Mr. David Dodwell, CEO of Strategic Access, a well-known trade and political analyst in Hong Kong, commented that it was necessary for household consumption to increase before consumer markets returned to pre-financial downturn levels.

Cost-effective innovation was another topic that attracted the interest of delegates. Joachim Hensch of Hugo Boss suggested creating “hot spots” to inspire designers' creativity. Concurring, Roger Lee, COO of TAL, focused on ways to inspire staff to learn new skills and develop creativity.

Meanwhile, Douglas Tong HSU, Chairman and CEO of the Far Eastern Group, stated: “While domestic consumption in China is increasing, local demand does not currently equate with the level of imports into the country.”

On the second day of the Forum, Prof. Dr. Helmut Merkel of EurAsia and Mr Hans-Werner Scherer of the EOS Group addressed the issue of global sourcing after the financial crisis and whether China is still the top sourcing country for the international apparel sector.

The event closed with an innovation for PSF in the form of a debate. The motion before the “house” suggested that: “China will soon no longer be the first choice for sourcing apparel”. Following a lively, often controversial and sometimes humorous debate, the motion was almost unanimously rejected.

This year, the principal 2010 PSF sponsor, CRYSTALLIZED™ - Swarovski Elements, the product brand for the world’s finest loose cut crystals, was joined by Avery Dennison, Checkpoint, Dassault, DyStar, KEE Zipper, Lawson, Lectra and several other sponsoring organisations.

The 400-plus participating companies included such well-known brands as adidas, Ann Taylor, AWI, Bossini, the Crystal Group, Fountain Set, H&M, Jockey International, Jones International, Li & Fung, New Balance, Nike, Pacific Brands, Polo Ralph Lauren, Target, VF and YGM.

The 6th edition of PSF, the definitive meeting place for the global apparel industry, will be held in Hong Kong from 30 March to 1 April, 2011.

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