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Working paper

Retailing is more than shopkeeping: manufacturing interlinkages and technological change in the Australian clothing industry

URP Working Paper No. 23
Clothing trade Manufacturing Retail trade Supply chain Australia
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apo-nid130671.pdf 21.17 MB

This paper is one of a series on the Australian clothing industry, forming part of the research project "A Local Division of Production: Technological Change and Productive Interlinkages in Australian Manufacturing". The project examines the effect of technological change and modern production philosophies upon the relationship between clients and suppliers within industry sectors. As the emphasis on quality becomes a cornerstone of entrepreneurial survival and success both process and product innovation take on an increasing significance. The project hypothesizes that these changes will have far-reaching consequences upon the interaction between leading , or 'core' , firms and their manufacturing suppliers.

Within the overall context of the project, the purpose of this paper is definitional. It is argued that within the clothing industry chain (or filiere) large retail chains are 'core' firms promoting technological and managerial change among manufacturing suppliers and their suppliers. It is further argued that the responses to change from manufacturers take on diverse forms according to size and market position. While manufacturers have responded 'flexibly' to changing conditions, the diverse forms of flexiblility introduced by different sectors of the market are more characteristic of 'neo-Fordism' , and evidence of an emerging 'post-Fordist' consciousness among management remains limited.

The paper begins with a brief history of the Australian clothing industry over the past two decades, focusing upon the changing policy environment. This leads to a description of the Federal Government's Textile, Clothing and Footwear Plan , and an assessment of the problems manufacturers face in adjusting to the new conditions. It is then argued that an analysis of the 'industry chain' must take into account the role performed by core retailers in altering manufacturing practices. Two areas in particular are examined; the growing awareness of quality control, and the introduction of Quick Response strategies. The conclusion reached is that the core retail sector has performed, and will continue to perform, a catalytic role within the Australian clothing manufacturing sector, and that commentators and industry analysts must broaden their conceptions of industry chains in order to take account of this factor.

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