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Copyright 2006 Cornell University. All rights reserved.


Domestic, Off-shore, and Full Package Sourcing

Some materials are easier to find either
domestically or off-shore

With NAFTA and the new World Trade Organization agreements (WTO) that call for the phasing out of textile and apparel quotas in 2005, the question of whether to source domestically or off-shore is becoming more important. Many of the larger apparel firms have moved some or all of their production off-shore to take advantage of lower wages for labor. Materials from international suppliers are available at all of the major materials markets and on the Internet. It is wise to compare the material characteristics and purchasing options of domestic and foreign materials, especially the required minimum orders and lead times. US textile mills have focused on large orders of basic materials (such as denim and cotton wovens) and required long lead times, though many have adjusted their offerings to address the needs of smaller businesses.

In contrast, European and Far East materials suppliers have specialized in small yardage minimums and unusual fabrics. They also have offered material purchase and production together as one full-package deal. They work closely with the firms in designing, selecting materials, approving samples, completing production, and sometimes even delivery to the firm's final customer.

Earle photo
"What you give up when you import, you give up flexibility and lead time."

Peggy Hart Earle describes how Hartstrings determines which products are sourced domestically and overseas.


As US apparel manufacturers and retailers developing their own private labels (e.g., GAP and Nordstrom) pursue off-shore production, they have increasingly purchased full-package services. This is certainly a more convenient process than dealing with lead times from both the materials supplier and the contract producer. For the small apparel producer, there are still advantages to domestic materials sourcing and production-closer contact and control, flexibility, shorter lead times, and lower shipping costs.

If you want to focus your energies on the design, marketing, and distribution functions, and outsource everything else, the full-package approach may be for you. Some domestic firms are offering such services as well as Mexico and countries in Latin America, Europe, and Asia.




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