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FDRA Footwear Sourcing & Sustainability Summit – Key Takeaways

FDRA Footwear Sourcing & Sustainability Summit – Key Takeaways


By Randy Burk, Executive Vice President – Quality Corrections & Inspections

At this year’s annual Footwear Sourcing & Sustainability Summit, presented by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA), I had the opportunity to share insights from the perspective of the reworks guy and to gain insights on the latest trends on global footwear production opportunities and challenges.

The event, held at the New York Stock Exchange on July 23 rd , was attended by top footwear sourcing experts that help bring your favorite new shoes to market every year. Kudos to the FDRA for bringing together such an impressive group of global industry leaders!

Serving as an industry expert speaking on the Quality and Compliance updates panel, I had the opportunity to share insights about our role in helping footwear supply chains resolving any post-production issues that may arise in bringing goods to U.S. markets.

While over 2.5 billion pairs of shoes are imported into the U.S. annually (nearly 7 pairs for every person in the U.S.), a “few million” pairs are occasionally in need of touch-up or rework to meet retailer standards. If even 1% of imported shoes annually arrive with some type of post-production issue, that represents nearly 25 million pairs. Our role is to quickly address quality issues that are discovered when goods arrive stateside.  Issues generally arise when goods do not meet buyer specifications or when supply chain issues may have slightly impacted product integrity. Poor packaging, moisture (“container rain”), mold and mildew or lack of proper care in handling goods are typical supply chain issue culprits.

I also shared insights on some of our approaches for addressing returns processing, which is presenting great challenges to brands as a result of consumers buying online rather than at brick and mortar stores where they typically try on a few pairs of shoes prior to making the buying decision. Sometimes know as the “Amazon effect”.

Footwear Industry Sourcing & Sustainability Takeaways

Before ringing the closing bell on this great event, some of the high-level takeaways and insights I gleaned going into 2020 are highlighted below.

Footwear production, sourcing and supply chain challenges

Leading experts confirmed what we have been seeing from the post-production reworks lens.  Product is increasingly being sourced outside of China to some degree. Tariffs are playing some role in this, but companies are also putting increased importance on diversifying supply chains.  Sourcing in Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries is on the rise.  Demand is now beginning to outpace capacity in some of those countries. From our perspective, with new factories ramping up with new products, there are expected to be some challenges that may cause rise for more post-production issues that may need to be addressed when goods arrive stateside.

We also heard about other not so obvious supply chain issues that are bubbling to the surface: what to do with corrugated materials and a truck driver shortage. The market of buyers for recycled materials are drying up, there are fewer buyers in need. Distribution centers, retail stores and warehouses are filling up with corrugated materials but there are fewer and fewer disposition alternatives. The transportation industry, which brings goods from ports to distribution centers to stores, is feeling pressures as well. There is a critical shortage of drivers which is impacting many industry sectors, including footwear.


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Sustainability in Footwear Production & Sourcing

Brands continue to recognize the importance of sustainability and are moving forward with a variety of approaches to move the needle in this area. New product launches with a sustainability bent are taking place regularly. We heard from product development staff with Keds at the summit. They shared highlights on the recent launch of some limited-edition sneakers made with recycled fabrics and some of the lessons they learned in the process.

Separately, the FDRA also introduced a new website, shoesustainability.com, that is intended to help footwear companies find the latest information on this topic.

From the reworks industry perspective, given our expertise in resolving post-production footwear issues for over 30 years, we are looking at how we can make a difference in extending product life cycle through conversations and action around returns processing. We view this as another way to look at sustainability in the context of supply chain circularity. If product can be touched-up, reworked or even up-cycled rather than discarded or quickly liquidated, it may have an opportunity to enjoy an extended product lifecycle.

Innovation in Footwear Sourcing & Production

Interlinked with sustainability concerns, brands are looking at new innovative approaches to materials and manufacturing. Brands are utilizing repurposed materials in new products. And, new technologies and applications are on the horizon that may help bring production closer to markets (“on-shoring”) where the goods are sold.

Contact QCI For Sustainable Footwear Rework Solutions

If you should receive a shipment of footwear that doesn’t meet specifications, give QCI a call, or request a free project analysis. We can help you restore footwear to first quality condition quickly, sustainably and discretely so that your goods are ready to bring to market.