When big buyers and their suppliers use
information technology in the clothing business, it is more than
just adding computers to conventional commerce. It usually means
suppliers take on new responsibilities.
TAL Apparel, a shirt maker in Hong Kong (China), has an
arrangement with retail giant JC Penney in the United States that
shows how manufacturers can provide new services to buyers which go
beyond the traditional supplier role. Moving responsibilities to
suppliers allows companies such as JC Penney to concentrate on
The case reveals more than the sophisticated technology used in the
garment business today. It shows that suppliers who already find
"extras", such as fabric sourcing, a burden will have to work hard
to stay competitive.
JC Penney is one of the United States' largest department stores,
catalogue sellers and e-retailers, and it is the country's largest
catalogue merchant of general merchandise. TAL, with operations
throughout Asia, has also established relationships with other
major retailers, including Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin
Klein and Land's End. TAL made 12% of the shirts sold in the United
States in 2003.