Interview with William E Connor

Face2Face
William E Connor
William E Connor
CEO
William E Connor and Associates Ltd
William E Connor and Associates Ltd

Speed to market a major agent of change in sourcing

The Connor Group offers a complete transparent supply chain with no hidden costs, encouraging clients to visit factories, consolidators and material suppliers. Headquartered in Hong Kong, Connor is a provider of wholly transparent logistics framework that formed the foundation of long-term sourcing partnerships. William E Connor, CEO of the William E Connor and Associates Ltd, discusses the pros and cons of digitising the entire supply chain of textiles in an interview with Fibre2Fashion.

How has textile sourcing evolved from what it was a decade back? What will be the impact of digitisation on the sourcing industry by 2030?

The focus on price, quality and speed to market is stronger than ever. Private brand penetration is, however, increasing as retailers compete for customers both in stores and online. Retailers need differentiated products. With e-commerce has come data. Customer analytics play a critical role in the supply chain. Data helps determine what is being produced and when. There is a trend to place more orders in smaller quantities and to do it faster. 

Without a crystal ball, it is difficult to predict what the face of sourcing and retail will be in 2030. Things are changing at the speed of light. By 2030, however, certainly a new brick and mortar-e-commerce equilibrium will be in place. Sourcing will need to include seamless digital platforms to link trade partners together for better communication and management of the supply chain. By digitising the supply chain and leveraging collaboration, automation, analytics, and  achieving flexibility, a robust and comprehensive global trade management platform creates value by not only providing sourcing options, but also improving margins, speed, agility and risk management. 

At Connor, we have developed a proprietary supply chain management tool that delivers a secure and transparent platform to manage the production supply chain. We continue to enhance our digital platform to stay at the forefront of supply chain technology. This includes virtual samples, virtual showrooms and other technologies that allow faster and better decision making. Technology is being leveraged to a greater extent to deliver price, quality and speed.

What are the emerging sourcing markets?

China, India, Africa, Middle East and South America represent the biggest long-term growth opportunities for sourcing. In China, worker migration to the main coastal cities has slowed considerably while industry has itself migrated away from the coast. This opens up new sourcing opportunities in China. 

The need for contingency plans in an era of geopolitical risk and rising protectionism augers in favour of developing a production footprint in multiple markets. Large dependence on a single country for production may be fine when everything goes well, but many of our clients are taking a very strategic view of sourcing and diversifying their production base.

What are the emerging sourcing markets?

How does your supply chain network work? What regions of the world are part of your supply chain?

While we are headquartered in Hong Kong, a global footprint is essential if global sourcing is to be optimised. Connor needs a physical presence in all production areas that translates to a big investment in people, training, and premises. This is why we have over 30 offices worldwide. Flying people to remote locations simply doesn't work well. We have teams dedicated to particular clients in all markets. 

We act as our client's alter ego. For our clients, we provide a wholly transparent supply chain framework that forms the foundation of long-term sourcing partnerships. These partnerships enable clients to source directly from factories and bypassing middlemen. This framework remains the cornerstone of Connor's philosophy to this day.

How has speed to market affected sourcing?

Clearly, speed to market is a major agent of change. Omni-channels, e-commerce, the rapid growth of technology and communication platforms are putting tremendous pressure on vendors to adapt. Those that don't adapt cannot expect to survive. Speed to market is imperative today and is not slowing down.

How have Brexit and Trump affected business?

It is not just Brexit or Trump, but many economic changes and rising trade tension that not only jeopardise business operations in the supply chain, but negatively impact the economic growth and competitiveness of all countries. That said, the impact of Brexit and Trump are prospective impacts. One hopes that reason and common sense in trade policy will prevail. There is too much at stake for everyone.

How do you plan to further refine your supply chain offering?

Our clients are vastly different from each other. It is essential for us to identify the right strategy for each, building trust and working in partnership with our clients and vendors to assure a given client's needs are met. 

For a supply chain partner such as Connor, a true global presence is essential. In the face of prospective new tariffs, protectionism and the need to keep costs down, production venues continue to shift. We deal with this by ensuring we have a robust global footprint that spans all major global production venues. 'Boots on the ground' remain essential in an otherwise digital age that includes increasing demand for social and environmental compliance.

Published on: 16/06/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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