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Clothing retailer manages its supply chain by paying attention to detail, handling its own distribution, relying heavily on EDI, and staying in close touch with vendors.
The Gap tracks 7,000 purchase orders a day worldwide. "Out of that lot, you expect one or two things to go wrong," said Ro Leaphart, senior director of logistics at the retailer's San Francisco headquarters. "Well, here's what happened one morning, not long ago:"
* A consignment in The Gap's new line of children's clothing with the NBA logo had been delivered in Indonesia to the wrong freight forwarder.
* An arch-competitor, The Limited, had taken all of the space on a Federal Express flight from Bangkok. Product from The Gap intended for that flight would have to be rebooked immediately on another carrier.
* A hurricane in the Caribbean, which Leaphart said "had sent bananas and fish flying," delayed delivery of T-shirts for an Old Navy promotion campaign.
* Yet another assessment team had arrived from U.S. Customs. "Customs did only one sampling at Levi Strauss. After that, Customs decided they weren't doing enough, and hit The Gap with seven samplings," Leaphart noted with some exasperation.
* A designer still couldn't decide whether a new garment should have one pocket or two - artistic inertia that would cause a delay at a factory in India. When finally produced, the garments would have to be air freighted to meet an irrevocable market date.
Leaphart's logistics staff, apparently inspired by triage techniques common to hospital emergency rooms, dealt with the most pressing crises first, speeding product due from Thailand and Indonesia.
Then, they tactfully stroked both the visiting Customs team and the laggard designer. "We couldn't do much about the hurricane," she explained to a sympathetic audience of logistics executives attending a recent conference of the Council of Logistics Management in Orlando, Fla.
Waves Of Freight. The Gap, a specialty retailer of clothing and other merchandise, has almost 1,900 stores worldwide, including Gap Kids, Banana Republic and Old Navy.
There are 900 Gap stores in the U.S., 91 in Canada, 70 in the United Kingdom, 17 in France, nine in Japan, and eight in Germany. In the U.S., there are 450 Gap Kids stores, 210 Banana Republic stores, and 140 Old Navy stores.
Each division has a different pitch. The Gap offers clothes for the masses. Banana Republic sells "a higher end of garment product," …