Enhancing international dimensions in apparel

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Enhancing international dimensions in apparel and merchandising curricula in the USA A practitioner’s perspective Hong You School of Fashion, Reason University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Bongo Jinn Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA Abstract Purpose – For many years, the textile and apparel industry has been on the forefront of globalization.

To prepare students in the global business environment, this study seeks input from the US business communities and provides suggestions for enhancing the international dimensions of the apparel and merchandising auricular in the USA. Design/methodology/approach – Two sets of data were collected and compared: the general data were collected from various business sectors via telephone interviews, and the product-specific data were gathered from US apparel manufacturers using a modified Dilemma’s mail survey method.

Findings – Results indicated that the most important benefit of doing business internationally was expanded market,while the obstacle identifiers oftenest cultural differences. The study also found that understanding (I. E. Cultural/business practice differences, etc. ) is more critical than application or competency (I. E. Pacific skills) for college international education and that taking general and product-specific approaches is most efficient to enhance international dimensions in textile and apparel curricula.

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Practical implications – Practical implications discussed were: first, international education in the textile and clothing field should be developed with a strong focus on small businesses; second, the international dimensions of apparel design, production, and merchandising curricula should be developed using a region-specific, rather than a “one-fits-all” approach; third, students in the textile and clothing field should be fully prepared in understanding”, rather than in “application” or “competency’; and fourth, educational modules that help the students better understand international markets should be incorporated into curricula.

Originality/value – We hope this report raises attention with regard to why and how international dimensions can be incorporated into instruction. Based on this report, we expect more practical and innovative international education dialogues to begin. Keywords Textile industry, Garment industry, International business, Higher education, curriculum development, Unlit Paper type Research paper EAI states AT America The Emerald Research Register for this Journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this Journal is available at www. Merchandising. Com/ architectures www. Nearsightedly. Com/1361-2026. HTML Partial funding support for this project was provided by the US Agricultural Experimental Station Fund. This paper has been reviewed in the same manner as an academic paper. JEFF 232 Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management Volvo. 9 NO. 2, 2005 up. 232-243 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1361-2026 DOI 10. 1108/13612020510599376 Introduction It is a well-established fact that the textile and apparel industry is an important actor in the US and global economies.

The textile and apparel supply chain is one of the most globalizes industries, involving more than 10 percent of the world business (Clock and Junk, 2000). It is a common business practice that some aspects of textile and clothing products, such as raw materials, components, labor, and assembly, are sourced from overseas, and the finished products are marketed elsewhere in the world. In the USA, the textiles and apparel sector sources 88 percent of its products internationally for the domestic market (Elevate, 2000).

The apparel companies are owe faced with a rapidly changing industry landscape that requires forward-looking global strategies (Rabin, 1999) and visionary leaders. Nonetheless, can we claim that higher education in textiles and clothing has sufficiently prepared its students for the challenges in this global environment? Probably not. While internationalization of the business curriculum has drawn attention in past years and there are good resources available regarding international business concepts in general business education, these resources are not targeted to a specific product category and largely focus on multinational companies.

As the small US companies’ exports were as high as 51 percent in 1997 (National Security and International Affairs Division, 2000), adopting general international business concepts with a large company focus does not appear to be sufficient preparation for textile clothing students. While a growing number of major four-year universities in the USA have implemented some international-related courses, this effort is not prevalent. One recent curriculum analysis of textile and clothing programs reveals that more than half of the four-year colleges in the USA do not offer any international courses Non, 2002).

Given that globalization is impacting very phase of sewn product manufacturing and marketing, the absence of international perspectives in curriculum results in a critical gap between higher education and the needs of the industry. How does one enhance international dimensions in the current curricula? What content and skill training needs to be Included ? An Important source Tort answers to tense Stetsons Is Industry professionals who are involved with international business operations on a regular basis.

This paper reports on two current surveys with US business communities and provides suggestions for enhancing the international dimensions of apparel and reconsidering curricula. As textile and apparel related business requires both general and product-specific knowledge, this study colleted two data sets, one from the general business community and one from the product-specific (I. E. Apparel) business community. Literature review The importance of international business education in apparel curricula For many years, the textile and apparel sector has been on the forefront of globalization.

No industry is more broadly dispersed around the world than the textile and apparel industry. Approximately 200 nations are involved with apparel production for international markets. In addition, a single apparel item produced and marketed within one country is a rarity. In the USA, more and more textile and apparel companies have engaged in international business, whether sourcing production or marketing products. About half of apparel sold in the USA is imported, and most of this imported apparel is sourced by Us-based companies (Junk, 1998).

Apparel and merchandising curricula 233 Wall-Mart, the world’s largest company, not only sources from numerous suppliers worldwide, but also sells merchandise in more than 5,000 stores in 11 countries around the globe (Wall-Mart, 2004). Lands’ End, Inc. , a successful catalog company, ships products to consumers in 185 countries and is receiving significant return from its worldwide business on the web (Slaw, 2001). Many US apparel specialty store retailers, such as Gap, Liz Collarbone, Ann Taylor, Limited, etc. , source internationally without having any production facilities in the States, then market throughout the world.

The Gap sources in nearly 50 countries and has 3,000 stores in Canada, the I-J, France, Germany, and Japan. Liz Collarbone sources globally, using 240 factories in 31 different countries to meet its needs Non, 2001). This tremendous trend of global sourcing can be observed easily in developed countries other than the USA. Most global apparel brands heavily leverage global sourcing strategies. Hennas & Mauritius ABA (H & M), the world’s second largest clothing retailer, sources from 1,600 suppliers throughout Europe and Asia, and operates more than 700 stores in the world Non, AAA).

Along with the proven importance of global sourcing and marketing, the need for efficient global supply chain management is highly regarded among practitioners. Due to numerous SKU in a season to handle, the customer’s appetite for variety, increased rates of product introduction, product proliferation, and shortened product cycles, the ability to respond quickly to the market’s needs has become a critical competitive advantage of a firm Non, Bibb). Speed is the competitive tool used by Ezra of Spain to achieve its success.

Ezra, launched in 1975 as a local store, is now the world’s third largest clothing retailer with $2. 6 billion (USED) total sales per year. Ezra has stores in 34 countries with 80 percent of its 1,160 stores in Europe. It takes less tan two weeks Tort a SKI art to get Trot Larva’s eagles team In span to a store In Paris or Tokyo. This is as much as 12 times faster than competitors. With shorter lead times, Ezra can ship twice a week (compared with once every 12 weeks for some competitors) to each store (McGuire, 2001).

The textile and apparel production- distribution supply chain involves many fragmented nodes: agriculture (fiber sources such as cotton, linen/flax, wool, mohair, and silk), manufacturing at various levels (yarn and fabric production; apparel production; and wet finishing), distribution, and consumers. Coordinating these nodes agile with overseas suppliers requires the most sophisticated management skills. Despite these remarkable changes in apparel production, marketing, and management, our understanding of the important changes is vague.

The current status of the international component in apparel curricula in the USA A great body of academic papers, reports, and anecdotes address the importance of international business education. Kodiak and Daniels (2003) survey with top managers clearly indicated continuing need for international business education in the USA. They claim that with the projected growth of international operations, additional international business education programs should be developed, particularly orgasm with a focus on Asia.

Among many subject matters, Kodiak and Daniel (2003) found that, at minimum, all business graduates need to have an appreciation for cross-cultural differences and a global perspective. Although the importance of international business education is widely accepted among many scholars, practitioners, and policy makers, international perspectives in clothing and textiles education have not been systematically discussed. Only one report, to our knowledge, provides exploratory findings.

Jinn’s (2002) analysis of the SEEM current status of international components in the apparel curriculum provides strong evidence of the lack of international education. Jinn systematically selected every other clothing-related department in US four-year colleges from the membership directory of the International Textile and Apparel Association (IOTA) and analyzed 62 valid curricula provided on college web pages. Surprisingly, the results showed that more than 50 percent of the four-year colleges did not offer any international courses.

To better prepare students for the global business environment and to provide a more realistic view and vision, the international dimensions of apparel design, production, ND merchandising curricula need to be enhanced. Method Data collection We collected two sets of data, general and product-specific. To gain broader international business perspectives, general data were collected from various business sectors via telephone interviews.

We employed structured and open-ended questions to allow depth of information. This was particularly important when no prior data existed. Trained interviewers from a Bureau for Social Research at a US university conducted the series of telephone interviews. In addition, product- and industry-specific data were gathered from US apparel manufacturers using a mail revue moment Respondents General sample: 47 companies were selected from a list of participants at a conference on doing business internationally.

Due to their established international contacts, the respondents could identify what they need for success in the international marketplace and provide a realistic perspective on how to best prepare college students for global competition. A broad range of companies were included in the sample, including those producing chemical products, instruments, equipment, metal products, electronic components, and apparel and other sewn products.

More than half of the respondents led small businesses (small business is defined as a company that has fewer than 500 employees according to the US Small Business Administration). Product- and industry-specific sample: a list of 1,500 US apparel companies was purchased from Dun & Broadsheet. Data were collected using Dilemma’s (2000) mail survey method, which included a first mailing, a follow-up postcard a week after the first mailing, and a second mailing two weeks after sending out the postcards.

A cover letter explaining the purpose of the research, a questionnaire, and a self-addressed, stamped return envelope were included in the iris mailing. Each questionnaire was addressed to the president of the company, and the president was asked to transfer the questionnaire to the person who was most qualified to complete it. All questionnaires received after the first mailing cutoff date were checked for moroseness bias according to a procedure proposed by Babble (1990), with no statistical evidence of moroseness bias identified in demographic characteristics.

Most of the respondents were in a top-level management position (e. G. President, chairman, CEO, COO, etc. ) (75. 2 percent) or in a manager/director level position (18. 6 recent). A total of 127 questionnaires were returned, resulting in an overall response rate of 8. 5 percent. Among the returned questionnaires, 113 were identified usable and Apparel and 235 were included in data analyses. Among them, 95. 2 percent (100 out of 105 valid cases) were identified as small businesses. We consider the two sets of data as complementary.

First, general data provided us with a broad picture of international involvement across different sectors in the USA, while the product- and industry-specific data yielded more focused information about the textile and apparel industry. By analyzing the two sets of data together, we can reach a more comprehensive understanding on how the textile and apparel industry compares with other industries in international business endeavors. A better understanding of the current international business involvement of the textile and apparel industry will help prepare the students in the field.

Second, since business operations vary significantly among industries, needs in international business education identified across diverse fields are broader in scope and can provide guidelines for product-specific curriculum content development. That is, utilizing interdisciplinary output can help educators “think out of the box” for clothing an e Ill curriculum Improvement. However, product- Ana Industry-spectral knowledge and skills for doing business internationally are also critical to the success of students in this field.

Therefore, in order to reach a more holistic view of the areas needed to enhance international dimensions in the textiles and clothing curriculum, we should integrate the findings at two levels, general and product- and industry- specific. Measurement and data analysis General data: the respondents were first asked questions related to the company, such as number of employees, product/service the company provided, the company’s primary customer, and if the company was doing business internationally.

If the answer to this last questions was no, the respondents were asked to explain why not and the interview ended. If the answer was yes, the interview continued with questions related to the company’s international business operations, such as in what country/countries the firm was doing business and the business relationship between the company and its partners (contractor, vendor, supplier, branch office, joint-venture partner, or other). In the last section of the interview, the respondents were asked three open-ended questions: (1) What do you perceive as the benefits of doing business internationally? 2) What do you perceive as the obstacles/challenges in doing business internationally? (3) If an educational unit in raising global awareness is to be developed with college students as target audience, what would be the areas you think need to be addressed? Descriptive analysis was performed on quantitative data using SPAS for Windows 1 1. 0. The qualitative data were coded by the researchers collaboratively, and the themes were identified. Product- and industry-specific data: we began by asking if the company was doing business internationally (I. E. Rouging), and how much the firm sourced from each of seven regions using seven-point Liker scale (1 livery little, 7 h frequently). Each respondent was asked if he/she believed a college education was needed in five specific areas (understanding international markets, global product development process, global supply chain management, understanding other cultures, and global sourcing) JEFF 236 using seven-point Liker scales (1 h not needed, 7 h essential). In addition, company anemographic variables, such as number of employees and sales volume, were included .

Descriptive statistics were performed, and the results were compared with those from the general data. Results International involvement General data showed that of the 47 firms interviewed, approximately 80 percent of the companies were doing international business. Regarding the business relationships with the partners, about 50 percent of the companies reported that their partners were the contractors. The survey with US apparel manufacturers (product- and industry-specific data) showed that of the 113 firms, 90 firms (79. Percent) indicated that they source globally. Considering the US apparel industry sourced B percent AT Its products Trot overseas In AY (Elevate, our data reflect this trend. From this result, we can conclude that there are definite needs for international education in general as well as apparel-specific areas. Countries with which the firms were doing business General data indicated that the international markets in which respondents were conducting business were in rank order, Asia, South America, Europe, North America, Africa, and Australia (Figure 1).

A survey with product- and industry-specific data infirmed this finding. That is, US apparel manufacturers were also doing business with the East Asia countries most, followed by South Asia, Middle Asia, Pacific Basin, Mexico, Italy, and South American countries (Figure 2). This finding correlates with Kodiak and Daniels (2003) study, which found that Asia was the most important market of current US businesses.

This finding suggests that region-specific international education in the apparel design, production, and merchandising curriculum may be more effective than a “one-to-fit-all” approach. It would be ideal to repaper students to Figure 1. Countries with which US firms were doing business: general 237 work with all the countries in the world; however, if the resources for developing educational materials are limited, focusing on Asian countries may be an economical solution. On the other hand, it is also crucial to be aware that the world apparel industry is changing rapidly.

In the recent past, Latin America apparel manufacturers emerged as competitive suppliers, accounting for 24 percent of the US apparel import (Grief, 1997). Therefore, the apparel design, production, and merchandising auricular should be tailored to the global shifts in regions. Benefits and obstacles of doing business internationally According to the companies interviewed, the most important benefit of doing business internationally was expanded market, followed by low cost, higher quality, manufacturer flexibility, and worldwide recognition.

Regarding obstacles (Figure 3), cultural difference was identified most often, followed by legal environment, business operation and process difference, commercial and political risk, and trust between business partners. These findings shed light on the areas that international business education should emphasize in order to develop efficient professionals who are capable of maximizing benefits in the global business environment, while innovative overcoming barriers they face in doing business internationally.

Areas of international education In terms of the areas that need to be included for raising global awareness in college students, the responses from the general business data were content analyzed by the authors and classified into three categories: Understanding, Application, and Competency (Figure 4). When classifying into the categories, generous discussions ere held until the authors reached the same conclusion. The three areas were Hogue apparel 238 conceptualized by the authors’ reasoning that instead of Just listing the areas of need, presenting the findings in a meaningful interpretation would provide better insight.

In Figure 4, the size of the diagram denotes the rate of response. That is, a large diagram indicates a higher rate of response. Respondents wanted college students to be prepared to the greatest extent in “understanding,” rather than in “application” and “competency. ” Further analysis suggested that an understanding of ultra/business differences was the most important, followed by an understanding of legal environment, marketing/market development, international trade, political environment, and networking.

The importance of an understanding of Figure 3. Perceived obstacles of doing business internationally Figure 4. Important areas of international business education: general 239 cultural/business differences corresponds to a study done by Kodiak and Daniel (2003), which found that an understanding of cross-cultural differences was the most important international skill sought by companies for both professional staff and line management employees. Data from US apparel manufacturers also indicated a strong need for college international education.

Overall, the US apparel manufacturers considered understanding international markets as the most important area in which to educate college students, followed by global product development process, global supply chain management, understanding other cultures, and global sourcing (Figure 5). In particular, small firms showed stronger interest in all aspects of international education (Figure 6). These needs assessment studies suggest an urgent need for mall business-focused training. The results from the two data sets generally agreed that understanding is more critical than application or competency (I. . Specific skills) for college international Figure 5. Education: apparel (mummer notes mean value) Figure 6. Education: large US apparel firms vs…. Small US apparel firms (number denotes mean value) 240 education. While the US apparel manufacturers favor a more product-oriented approach, such as international product development and global sourcing, we believe that taking both general and industry- and product-specific approaches is the cost efficient for enhancing international dimensions of apparel design, production, and merchandising curricula.

The general approach guides students in the big picture, while the industry- and product-specific approach leads the students to more specific contents tied closely to their major area of study. Conclusion and recommendations There is little doubt that the textile and apparel industry is operating in an interconnected global environment. Companies involved in international business are faced with increasing challenges in intense global competition, changes in nonuser tastes, trade-offs between cost and quality, communication obstacles, legal and political risk, etc.

To survive and succeed in global competition, the industry needs effective strategies and proficient leaders. Meanwhile, textile and apparel programs in higher education have been slow in providing the most appropriate education and training to the students who will be the backbone of the industry in the near future. To investigate possible strengthening of the international dimension of apparel design, production, and merchandising curricula, this research invited input from industry professionals.

Two sets of data were collected and compared. The general data were collected from 47 companies in various business sectors in order to obtain general guidelines for international business education. A separate set of product- and industry-specific data were collected from a survey of 113 US apparel manufacturers. Based on the findings, we believe there is a compelling need for enhancing international education in apparel design, production, and merchandising curricula. Therefore, we provide the following suggestions and recommendations.

First, international education in the textile and clothing field should be developed tit a strong focus on small businesses. Despite the significant contribution of the small business sector to the US and global economies, many international business courses and education/training materials were developed from the perspective of large multinational companies. While these companies have capabilities to train their employees, small businesses lack resources to provide training to address international business issues.

Considering the fact that the small business sector also proposes many entry-level positions (Harrison, z ten needs Tort International education with a small business focus for college students is imperative. Second, the international dimensions of apparel design, production, and merchandising curricula should be developed using a region-specific, rather than a “one-fits-all” approach. Educational materials should be developed with a clear focus on the regions with which the US businesses are most involved.

Regarding the textiles and apparel industry, this region is Asia. Additional educational materials may be developed for other regions using a parallel approach. Third, students in the textile and clothing field should be fully prepared in understanding”, rather than in “application” or “competency’. Specifically, educational materials should help students develop a sound understanding of cultural/business differences, as well as an understanding of the legal and political environments in which the international trade takes place.

A thorough understanding Apparel and 241 is a prerequisite for application and specific skills that the students will need in their professional positions. Finally, educational components that help the students better understand international markets should be incorporated into curricula. Since an understanding f international markets was identified by industry practitioners as the areas most needed for college students, significant efforts should be devoted to teaching students various aspects related to international markets.

How should these suggestions be incorporated into international education in apparel design, production, and merchandising curricula? We propose that an international module be developed in every course in the apparel and merchandising area. Instead of developing a single international course which requires time and commitment, perhaps it is more efficient and economical to evolve educational modules that can be integrated into the subject matter of a course already developed and taught.

For example, the importance of international markets and global branding may be included in the introductory course to fashion industry; how goods are mass produced overseas may be taught in the apparel mass production course. In the visual merchandising course, cultural differences in preference of visual merchandising and advertising presentations may be introduced. In addition, how apparel goods are sourced from and marketed to international markets may be discussed in one of the merchandising acquisition and allocation courses.

An easy method of enhancing students’ understanding of cultural/business practice differences and international markets is to utilize government data. Government data may include country reports and market reports by the US Department of Commerce. Newspaper and trade magazine articles may also be used. Enhancing international dimensions in textile and clothing curricula is imperative. We posit that this effort should be collective within a program, not Just the effort of an individual instructor in one course. Therefore, administrative support and team