The textile and fashion industries have forever been at the mercy of rapidly changing styles and fickle customers who want the latest designs while they are still fashionable. The result for these businesses, often forced to forecast sales and deal with suppliers based on volatile demand, is a history of stock shortages, or costly markdowns. But, as the authors disclose in A Stitch in Time, technological advances that began in the 1980s introduced a new concept in retailing-lean retailing. Pioneered by entrepreneurs such as Sam Walton and WAL-MART and made possible by new information technologies for tracking sales data, lean retailing has enabled apparel producers to reorganize the manner in which they related to retail customers, undertook distribution, forecasted and planned production, and managed supplier relations. In an industry that typically suffered from great delays from warehouse to rack, sales data was now captured at the retailer's checkout through bar coding and immediately transmitted back to distributors, manufacturers, designers, and even to the textile mills that weave the cloth.
Armed with up-to-the-minute data about colors, sizes, and geographic sales, everyone in the chain was able to reduce cost, increase efficiency, and keep the customer in style like never before. And today, the broad changes introduced in the apparal industry by lean retailing are rippling through a growing segment of the American economy. A richly detailed and resonant account, A Stitch in Time brilliantly captures both the history and the future of the fashion industry as it offers executives a new paradigm for understanding the challenges of retailing and manufacturing in all segments of our rapidly transforming economy.