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...our operations are inevitably shifting eastwards to be in closer proximity to our customer base
Paul Forman discusses the vast industry of threads, zippers, and specialty fibres with Fibre2Fashion correspondent, Ilin Mathew.
Coats plc is one of leading names in the world of US textiles industry. It has reached a staggering sales figure of over US$ 1 billion.
Paul was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Coats plc in December 2009, and has played a crucial part in its success ever since.
With a long heritage of more than 250 years, how does Coats plc still remain relevant and successful today?
Coats can trace its origins back to the eighteenth century textile industry in Scotland. That may seem a long way from where our company is today: the world’s leading industrial thread and consumer textile crafts business, at home in more than 70 countries and employing more than 20,000 people across six continents. But the core of the business is still about manufacturing 'clever thin lines’; building on our pioneering history of customer-led innovation, our range and reach has expanded to include hi-tech threads and engineered yarns. Then there are the areas of the business which did not even exist 250 years ago such as digital.
According to you, how important is it to understand current trends and future needs of a clothing firm to sustain in the increasingly competitive world?
Manufacturers and suppliers need to work extremely hard to understand the challenges their customers face and their perspective - or what it is like 'walking in their shoes’ - as that understanding is vital to collaboration, problem-solving and mutually growing business together. The most successful business relationships we have is where we work alongside our customers (from their design studios to the factory floor), identify challenges they face and work on solutions together. It is not just about coming to the table with a new product or innovation that may respond to a current trend or future need.
Do you think that applying innovative techniques to develop technical products in new areas and extending into new markets and online is necessary for the growth of any textile company? Can you explain it?
Innovation and market extension has to be at the heart of any manufacturing business but for those in the fast moving fashion sector it is essential. A company that is not developing new products or expanding into new markets will be at best standing still and at worst losing its business and market share.
Coats operates in more than 70 countries across six continents. Is it tougher to work with different labor laws and different wage structures than working in a single country? Can you expand on that a bit?
Coats complies with local legislation in every country in which we operate. In many cases we go beyond those local legislation requirements as we insist upon the highest standards of business ethics and employment standards globally. It is challenging for any business which operates in so many different countries but we have an advantage in terms of the experience and diversity of our senior management team which includes over 100 members from 25 different nationalities. They have a deep understanding of local markets and help us to ensure that we provide all our employees with appropriate terms, conditions and benefits.
Sourcing is important for big companies. How do you identify from where and what to source?
In the last decade there has been an unprecedented shift in the geographic focus of our industry: slowing growth in Western Europe, North and Latin America contrasts with the exponential growth in Asia. Given our customers need to receive supplies within a short lead time, our operations are inevitably shifting eastwards to be in closer proximity to our customer base.
However, the bigger issue is around responsible sourcing across our end-to-end supply chain. The reputation of any company is at risk if its suppliers are not behaving responsibly and the larger the brand, the bigger the cost to its reputation.
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