Seller of sportswear survives on supply chain smarts

Seller of sportswear survives on supply chain smarts

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Operating a tight supply chain is important for all retailers, but it is a matter of survival for those that deal in seasonal sportswear where fashions change throughout the year.

Quiksilver Inc., the Huntington Beach, Calif., manufacturer of surfing and snowboarding apparel, must supply its retail outlets with the right amount of product in a narrow time window, said Tunia Kaawa, senior vice president of production.

"You don't want to have it at the end of the season," Kaawa told the Orange County chapter of Women in International Trade Thursday.

Quiksilver, which sources merchandise from about 150 factories around the world, works closely with service providers to project as accurately as possible its requirements in each product area and to deliver the goods quickly from the overseas factory to the U.S. distribution center in Huntington Beach.

Delays due to national security concerns means the supply chain must include contingency plans and a buffer for increased Customs inspections, Kaawa said. Quiksilver builds into its schedule a 10-day window for imports from the time the vessel docks in Los Angeles-Long Beach to delivery at the distribution center.

Quiksilver two years ago learned an important lesson in supply chain management when retail sales suddenly stagnated and the company was stuck with millions of dollars of excess inventory. Using information technology and working more closely with its transportation providers and overseas suppliers, the importer developed a plan to purchase leaner and streamline the supply chain, Kaawa said.

Quiksilver's supply chain management has become even more complex since then as the company expanded its product line through acquisitions. Quiksilver, and its girl's brand, Roxy, are best known for surfing fashions in beach communities and snowboarding apparel in winter resorts.

However, the company has about a dozen brand names in products such as swim suits, footwear, skateboarding apparel, golf and fashion accessories. Quiksilver anticipates sales of $1 billion in fiscal year 2004.

Each product has its unique supply chain requirements. Wearing apparel for men tends to involve basic styles and fabrics that don't change dramatically. Women's apparel is more trendy and changes frequently, requiring a shorter time to market.

Information technology allows the company to link designers, overseas suppliers and transportation providers to ensure that the products make it to the store shelves in time for the season, Kaawa said.