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What does that $14 shirt really cost?
Maclean's ^ | May 1, 2013 | Rosemary Westwood

Posted on 05/04/2013 4:32:40 PM PDT by rickmichaels

Before last week, Loblaw’s Joe Fresh was known mostly as a hot spot for cheap, stylish clothing. Few customers likely cared how the clothes were made. That all changed with the deadly collapse of an eight-storey factory complex used by the retailer in Bangladesh. Nearly 400 people are dead, and the owners of the complex—and the factories within it—that was reportedly built without proper permits, have been arrested on charges of negligence. Bangladesh’s government has vowed to inspect every manufacturer in the country.

The worst industrial accident in Bangladesh’s history offers an uncomfortable glimpse into the fast-growing garment industry there, and the treatment of its workers. According to a 2011 report by the consulting firm O’Rourke Group Partners, a generic $14 polo shirt sold in Canada and made in Bangladesh actually costs a retailer only $5.67. To get prices that low, workers see just 12 cents a shirt, or two per cent of the wholesale cost. That’s one of the lowest rates in the world—about half of what a worker in a Chinese factory might make—and a major reason for the explosion of Bangladesh’s garment industry, worth $19 billion last year, up from $380 million in 1985. The country’s 5,400 factories employ four million people, mostly women, who cut and stitch shirts and pants that make up 80 per cent of the country’s total exports.

For that $14 shirt, the factory owners can expect to earn 58 cents, almost five times a worker’s wage. Agents who help retailers find factories to make their wares also get a cut, and it costs about $1 per shirt to cover shipping and duties. Fabric and trimmings make up the largest costs—65 per cent of the wholesale price. Toronto-based labor rights activist Kevin Thomas says wages ultimately get squeezed most because businesses can easily control them, unlike the price of cotton or shipping.

A cost breakdown only partly explains the maze of relationships in the garment-supply chain. The retailer H&M, which had no connection to the collapsed building, works with 166 different factories in Bangladesh. It has published its supply chain, listing every factory around the world that makes H&M clothing in an effort to prove what most major stores claim: that it knows where its clothes come from. But according to observers, many don’t. Though most brands have a regular stable of factories, they may contract hundreds more for short stints. “It would be a very high risk to have a limited number of suppliers,” says Adriana Villaseñor, a senior adviser with the global retail consulting firm, J.C. Williams Group. Smaller factories often take on more than they can produce, Thomas says, and then subcontract later on—without the retailer’s knowledge. This week, Wal-Mart said it had “no authorized production in [the collapsed] facility,” but added that if unauthorized production were discovered, it would take “appropriate action.”

Amid mounting protests, both in Bangladesh and abroad, and calls for boycotts, retailers have pledged to improve working conditions. Primark, a U.K. chain that made goods in the ruined factory, and Loblaw Companies Ltd., have said they will compensate victims’ families. But Bangladesh is just one country in a vast supply chain. H&M, for instance, uses hundreds of other factories, including 262 in China. In Vietnam, workers make only slightly more than in Bangladesh: 14 cents per shirt. Real reform will mean paying a lot more than $14 for a shirt.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Foreign Affairs
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1 posted on 05/04/2013 4:32:40 PM PDT by rickmichaels
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To: rickmichaels
I think they should close down those sweatshops. Then the people who work in them would die of starvation and exposure, rather than building collapses.

All seriousness aside, sometimes the only thing worse than working in a sweatshop is not having a sweatshop to work in.

2 posted on 05/04/2013 4:42:47 PM PDT by Mr Ramsbotham (Laws against sodomy are honored in the breech.)
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To: rickmichaels

Imagine - $.12 for labor. You couldn’t even get a member of the Garment Worker’s Union to put thread on their machine for $.12, let alone sew anything.

People want jobs brought back to the U.S. but how many of these same people would be willing to pay the extra cost for a knit shirt, the staple of many wardrobes, even if it were made in the USA. Some of us can no longer afford it, even if we wanted to.

Used to make tee shirts for the guys in my family but even decent material is getting hard to find.


3 posted on 05/04/2013 4:44:05 PM PDT by Grams A (The Sun will rise in the East in the morning and God is still on his throne.)
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>> What does that $14 shirt really cost?

$14


4 posted on 05/04/2013 4:46:26 PM PDT by Gene Eric (The Palin Doctrine.)
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To: rickmichaels

Rejoice! Free trade at its finest-how it works on the other side. Remember Free Trade always means cheap and nasty, in more than one sense.


5 posted on 05/04/2013 4:56:58 PM PDT by AEMILIUS PAULUS (It is a shame that when these people give a riot)
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To: rickmichaels

It would be much better if those people had no jobs and just starved.


6 posted on 05/04/2013 5:03:12 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Islam is a religion of peace, and Moslems reserve the right to detonate anyone who says otherwise.)
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To: rickmichaels
I can sell your wife a $98 shirt, made in Canada, super quality that will last for years.

Women around here buy a lot of them.

But I think the average American Walmart/Target shopper would flee in horror if confronted with that price tag. They've demonstrated over and over that they want the Bangladeshi stuff, regardless of how it was made.

7 posted on 05/04/2013 5:05:35 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves (CTRL-GALT-DELETE)
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To: Mr. Jeeves

I go to the thrift store and get that $98 dolar shirt for $2.


8 posted on 05/04/2013 5:09:03 PM PDT by Mmogamer (I refudiate the lamestream media, leftists and their prevaricutions.)
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To: rickmichaels

Who pays $14 for a shirt? Not I.


9 posted on 05/04/2013 5:22:46 PM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts (For me, I plan to die standing as a free man rather than spend one second on my knees as a slave.)
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To: rickmichaels

Retail prices for underwear, tee shirts, knit shirts and the like didn’t drop when trade policy permitted offshoring of production. Retail margins jumped into the sixties and remained there.


10 posted on 05/04/2013 5:22:49 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Mmogamer

And the permanent stains of somebody else’s sweat under the arms make it the perfect modern fashion statement. :)


11 posted on 05/04/2013 5:27:01 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves (CTRL-GALT-DELETE)
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To: rickmichaels

Of course what these commies never stop to ask is what kind of standard of living would these workers have if they didn’t work in a garment factory? In Bangladesh many people go hungry every day and would give anything to have one of those jobs.


12 posted on 05/04/2013 5:28:22 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: RegulatorCountry
Retail prices for underwear, tee shirts, knit shirts and the like didn’t drop when trade policy permitted offshoring of production.

Yes of course they did. How do you think Walmart got so big?

13 posted on 05/04/2013 5:30:26 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: Mmogamer

In more prosperous times I’d buy very nice broadcloth Egyptian cotton dress shirts retail at a price nearing that of having them custom tailored. Would have bought tailored if they were available here, but tgat’s a big city amenity. Off the rack or not, they still lasted forever though. The whites would get cycled into casual wear after several years due to yellowing somewhat, they’d no longer get that up-and-coming executive blinding white, lol. Man, the money I’ve wasted. Haven’t been a corporate drone for many years.


14 posted on 05/04/2013 5:30:32 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Mr. Jeeves; Mmogamer

Except that thrift stores are now dumping grounds for Nordstrom, Macy’s, etc, when seasons or fashions change, or a button goes missing.


15 posted on 05/04/2013 5:30:57 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: rickmichaels

The actual retail margin is, I read today in the WSJ, 1-2%.


16 posted on 05/04/2013 5:32:10 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: AEMILIUS PAULUS
Remember Free Trade always means cheap and nasty, in more than one sense.

Er, no. Free Trade, by definition, means the absence of violence.

17 posted on 05/04/2013 5:32:20 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: Revolting cat!
Except that thrift stores are now dumping grounds for Nordstrom, Macy’s, etc, when seasons or fashions change, or a button goes missing.

What do you mean "now"? I believe Woolworth pioneered that practice back in the 1930's.

18 posted on 05/04/2013 5:34:21 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: Mr. Jeeves

I notice a lot of men’s suits are fabrique au Canada.


19 posted on 05/04/2013 5:35:06 PM PDT by Perdogg (Sen Ted Cruz, Sen Mike Lee, and Sen Rand Paul are my adoptive Senators)
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To: SeeSharp

You want to talk discount mass, compare Sam Walton’s Walmart that prided itself in carrying American made goods. Multipacks and polybag programs existed then too. They were no cheaper after than before. Where cheaper did arise you’ll find lower quality goods. Those Polos you find at TJMaxx aren’t the same as the ones in Macy’s, they were made to spec to be sold at that price with a specific margin requirement at a specific retail preprice.


20 posted on 05/04/2013 5:35:40 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Revolting cat!
There's a lot of confusion between "markup" and "profit margin" these days.

You'll notice quite a few things missing from that graphic between the $5.67 "cost" and the $14.00 retail price. I'll list just a few of them here:

1. Retail labor (sales employees, management, etc.)
2. Facility costs (rent for retail space, maintenance, etc.)
3. Security personnel
3. Employee benefits
4. Taxes
5. "Shrink" due to loss of product, theft, etc.
6. IT and other administrative costs

That barely scratches the surface, but you get the idea.

21 posted on 05/04/2013 5:39:05 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("I am the master of my fate ... I am the captain of my soul.")
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To: rickmichaels

I was sitting home alone one night
In LA, watching old Cronkite on the seven o’clock news.
Seems there was an earthquake that left nothing but a Panama hat
And a pair of old Greek shoes.

It didn’t seem like much was happening,
So I turned it off and went and got another beer.
Seems like every time you turn around
There’s another hard luck story that you gotta hear.

And there’s really nothing anyone can say.
And I never did plan to go anyway, to Black Diamond Bay.

Bob Dylan


22 posted on 05/04/2013 5:39:27 PM PDT by dagogo redux (A whiff of primitive spirits in the air, harbingers of an impending descent into the feral.)
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To: Alberta's Child

Absolutely. Still, the low margin percentage surprised me, and it’s probably much higher for upscale stores, and smaller merchants.


23 posted on 05/04/2013 5:42:00 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: Alberta's Child

Apparel margin expectations are in the sixties for the national retailers. Margin in this instance means gross margin. Their net is not so freely discussed.


24 posted on 05/04/2013 5:42:05 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: RegulatorCountry
So? They were targeted at customers the company wasn't otherwise getting. Who doesn't do this?

And it's not always the case that cheaper means lower quality. In the case of goods from Asia cheaper usually just means a lower cost of production.

25 posted on 05/04/2013 5:49:17 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: Alberta's Child

Also, not all merchandise is sold at full price, therefore markdowns are factored into the price so that the merchandise is not ultimately sold at a loss.

Without making a profit businesses would fold.It’s what we call capitalism.


26 posted on 05/04/2013 5:49:59 PM PDT by COUNTrecount (Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't fail .But We Did.)
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To: rickmichaels

Shh! Not supposed to talk about this. We like our good deals on stuff made by slave labor! Shutting all our smelly smokey polluting factories saved the earth, too! /s


27 posted on 05/04/2013 5:52:59 PM PDT by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
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To: SeeSharp

It means we as a country put broad swaths of the non-union, rural south out of work for no benefit to the consumer. The benefit was higher retail gross margin.


28 posted on 05/04/2013 5:53:01 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: SeeSharp

Well, it’s been seen more lately where I live. And you can even be a fussy shopper at thrift stores and pick better brands, at least in men’s shirts and jackets.


29 posted on 05/04/2013 5:57:11 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: RegulatorCountry
Nonsense. There is a huge benefit to the consumer. Why do you think consumers are buying this stuff? No one is forcing them to. They look at two equivalent products with different prices and chose the cheaper. If my paycheck buys more stuff I benefit. And why should I mind if the retailer also benefits?

And what's all that about the non-union rural south? Are you saying Bangladeshi garment workers are putting American farmers out of work? If you mean the textile industry in the South, that has been gone for decades. Most of the work force reductions in the textile industry came about as a result of automation. Foreign competition killed off the remnant. My grandfather worked his entire life for Cannon Mills and I'm quite familiar with the history of that industry. The bottom line is if the textile companies had been able to compete they would still be in business. And there is never any reason to force consumers to pay more just so an inefficient industry can keep going.

30 posted on 05/04/2013 6:17:54 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: Bloody Sam Roberts
Who pays $14 for a shirt? Not I

I haven't bought a shirt in over 40 years.

I'll have to ask my wife what one costs.

31 posted on 05/04/2013 6:20:34 PM PDT by Graybeard58 (_.. ._. .. _. _._ __ ___ ._. . ___ ..._ ._ ._.. _ .. _. .)
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To: SeeSharp

I watched it happen first hand, not vicariously through a relative.

Stop and think of what you’re saying. The decimation of the domestic textile industry began due to automation? It’s a wonder, then, that offshoring ever provided such benefit due to radically lower labor cost.

Those domestic manufacturers that continue to exist remain competitive as a result of automation. It obviously didn’t put them out of business. Offshore sources face the same capital expenditure for modern automated equipment.

Home textiles and apparel are dissimilar in several ways as well, your grandfather’s no doubt outstanding contributions to the now defunct Cannon Mills notwithstanding I’m sure.


32 posted on 05/04/2013 6:34:02 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Mr. Jeeves

Well tgats what dry cleaning is for ya know... heh


33 posted on 05/04/2013 6:40:04 PM PDT by Mmogamer (I refudiate the lamestream media, leftists and their prevaricutions.)
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To: Mr Ramsbotham; 1rudeboy; Mase; Toddsterpatriot; 1010RD
...close down those sweatshops. Then the people who work in them would die of starvation...

Right, because real patriotic Americans don't want all this off shoring of workplace deaths.  Why should we allow "nearly 400 people" in Bangladesh when in 2011 alone we had 4609 workplace deaths in America!

OK, so maybe we're breaking the sarc/ meter here, but I swear the stupidity we're getting from the press is astronomical.

34 posted on 05/04/2013 6:41:51 PM PDT by expat_panama
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To: Alberta's Child

mall stores have higher markups than standalone, mall rents are way more.


35 posted on 05/04/2013 6:44:16 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I can neither confirm or deny that; even if I could, I couldn't - it's classified.)
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To: RegulatorCountry
Those domestic manufacturers that continue to exist remain competitive as a result of automation. It obviously didn’t put them out of business. Offshore sources face the same capital expenditure for modern automated equipment.

When seeking to lower costs, the choice has always been between automation and cheap Third World labor.

The big question over the next twenty years will be: what happens to the populations of the Third World when automation finally becomes cheaper than what it costs to keep an unskilled Third World worker fed?

36 posted on 05/04/2013 6:51:19 PM PDT by PapaBear3625 (You don't notice it's a police state until the police come for you.)
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To: rickmichaels

It usually takes a disaster and a reaction in the West, threats of boycotts fueled by the MSM and the Left, before Western companies start taking steps toward exercising some control over their Third World contractors. This is going to happen with Bangladesh, as it’s happened with China. Benetton has an egg on its face.


37 posted on 05/04/2013 6:57:00 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: Alberta's Child
You'll notice quite a few things missing from that graphic between the $5.67 "cost" and the $14.00 retail price. I'll list just a few of them here:

1. Retail labor (sales employees, management, etc.)
2. Facility costs (rent for retail space, maintenance, etc.)
3. Security personnel
3. Employee benefits
4. Taxes
5. "Shrink" due to loss of product, theft, etc.
6. IT and other administrative costs

You're also not factoring in the palm-greasing, back scratching and bribery of local government officials to overlook the building codes of the factories.

38 posted on 05/04/2013 7:09:11 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
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To: RegulatorCountry
Cannon Mills had over twenty thousand employees at its peak. It had a little over seven thousand when the doors finally closed for good. Most of the workers had been replaced over the years by automation before foreign competition finally killed the company. It was still the largest permanent lay-off in North Carolina history though.

My grandfather was the overseer of the dye plant in Concord. If you ever had any Cannon sheets or towels the cotton was dyed by my grandfather's crew. He started there as an elevator operator when he was fourteen. Mercifully, he died before the plant was sold.

39 posted on 05/04/2013 7:12:54 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: Joe 6-pack
and bribery of local government officials to overlook the building codes of the factories

Um... Building codes? Bangladesh?

40 posted on 05/04/2013 7:15:51 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: SeeSharp
"Um... Building codes? Bangladesh?"

I'll bet you a million dollars, my left testicle and first born child they have them.

Click here before you shake on it.

41 posted on 05/04/2013 7:23:58 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
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To: SeeSharp
"Um... Building codes? Bangladesh?"

I'll bet you a million dollars, my left testicle and first born child they have them.

Click here before you shake on it.

42 posted on 05/04/2013 7:23:59 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
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To: Joe 6-pack

LOL. That’s pretty good. I wonder if any of the building inspectors have ever seen it.


43 posted on 05/04/2013 7:41:07 PM PDT by SeeSharp
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To: SeeSharp
"I wonder if any of the building inspectors have ever seen it."

You clearly don't understand the purpose of government. The building inspectors are undoubtedly paid handsome figures to ignore it.

44 posted on 05/04/2013 7:44:46 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
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To: rickmichaels
pikers

a 400 golf driver costs about 65 bucks.

45 posted on 05/04/2013 8:32:33 PM PDT by stylin19a (Oboma -> Fredo smart)
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To: Revolting cat!

Remember that the low margin % also has to be examined in the context of how quickly a product is sold once it is added to a retailer’s inventory. A 1%-2% margin on a piece of apparel that spends no more than a few weeks on a rack is one thing, but that’s an abysmal return if you’re talking about a piano that may sit in a dealer’s inventory for months or years.


46 posted on 05/04/2013 8:36:30 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("I am the master of my fate ... I am the captain of my soul.")
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To: RegulatorCountry
Apparel margin expectations are in the sixties for the national retailers. Margin in this instance means gross margin. Their net is not so freely discussed.

Nordstrom is a high end clothing retailer, and the vast majority of its stuff is made in China or other low-cost labor locales. Edgar filings show a gross profit margin of 31% for 1994 vs 35% for 2012. I'd wager a big part of the margin difference comes from improved purchasing power as the company's annual revenues went from $3.6b to $11.8b, its store count went from 57 to 242 and its geographical coverage went from 10 to 31 states in the ~ 20 year interval.

I suspect some of the margin difference over the years comes from retail consolidation, as regional chains become national chains, and regional chains or individual stores that can't compete go out of business or are bought out by the nationals. Fewer competitors means more pricing power. It doesn't mean that prices go up, but they might go down less in the absence of competition that went belly-up. Everybody has the same access to overseas sources of labor, but fewer competitors generally means better pricing from the seller's point of view.

47 posted on 05/05/2013 4:41:00 AM PDT by Zhang Fei (Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.)
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To: Zhang Fei
After the passing of the late Sam Walton, his heirs took the helm and the company started becoming rather well known in vendor circles for taking on new domestic vendors (in a wide variety of areas, not just textiles), accepting their prices and terms, taking up practically all their production capacity and then putting the screws to them mercilessly. Landing that account was a bittersweet thing. Many were forced to consolidate, reducing competition but gaining efficiencies via cutting redundancies such as IT, HR, marketing, sales forces and accounting. Over time this too proved insufficient and so offshore sourcing began to be sought on the vendor side. Walmart didn't go chasing after it themselves, not initially, vendors "innovated" their way into it to remain profitable. Disintermediation came later, after vendor sources were established and producing. This was the vanguard of offshoring. I saw it, lived it. Consolidation and merciless cutting of redundancies were more or less implemented in search of greater efficiencies in order to meet the pricing demands of a huge account that had them over a barrel.
48 posted on 05/05/2013 5:12:32 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: dagogo redux

My favorite Dylan song.

They don’t write them like that anymore.


49 posted on 05/05/2013 5:24:46 AM PDT by Skooz (Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us)
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To: rickmichaels; Revolting cat!

Show me a news item on a phone support office in Bangledesh collapsing or a catastrophe hitting an offshored quality assurance staff and then maybe I can releate.


50 posted on 05/05/2013 5:25:34 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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