A Stitch in Time

A Stitch in Time: Lean Retailing and the Transformation of Manufacturing—
Lessons from the Apparel and Textile Industries

By Frederick H. Abernathy, John T. Dunlop, Janice H. Hammond, and David Weil.
Oxford University Press, 1999.

A Stitch in Time was the first major examination of fundamental changes in then-current retail practices, introducing the concept of “lean retailing” and delivering a story that has lessons that go far beyond any one particular industry. Given its comprehensive discussion of the impact of lean retailing on supply chains, it continues to be used and referenced today. By describing and documenting the effect of information technologies on retailing, and the subsequent response of two specific industries, one can appreciate the dramatic efforts of business in their search for a new way to be successful. Written by two economists, an engineer and a logistics specialist, A Stitch in Time was based on the most comprehensive data available on those industries.

The lean retailing story, with strategies for success

It examined how successful retailers and their apparel and textile suppliers have taken advantage of the huge changes wrought by information technology. In an increasingly fashion-oriented world, the response of these companies to "lean retailing" provides dramatic lessons for any industry, from made-to-measure jeans to customized computers.

Lean retailing—the effective management of inventory based on accurate and timely information—is the way today's businesses are meeting fast-changing customer demand. A Stitch in Time delivers an explanation of this approach and explains why traditional manufacturing practices are no longer effective. It includes innovative strategies for suppliers based on original thinking about planning, manufacturing and sourcing in this changed environment.

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The Questionnaire

The Questionnaire, presented below in PDF form, was developed by HCTAR in conjunction with our overall research of the U.S. textile-apparel-retail industry complex. In A Stitch in Time, Appendix B (the HCTAR Survey) gives a detailed account of the development and administration of the survey along with tables establishing that the survey results were fairly representative of the overall industry complex at the time—1993.

The final questionnaire evolved from the results of four trial versions administered on conference calls or by mail with members of the management of the firms of our advisor committee members and senior executives of other firms on the basis of personal friendship.

All industries evolve over time, but we wished to capture a detailed snapshot of the various segments of industry during the time a revolution, caused by the introduction of the bar codes, ICT, resulting in lean retailing, was irreversibly changing this complex of industries. We felt that it was necessary to have a questionnaire of this length and complexity to capture the state of the revolution in the separate parts of the U.S. apparel industries.

Download questionairre.

© The President and Fellows of Harvard College.
HCTAR, Harvard Center for Textile and Apparel Research. 29 Oxford Street, Pierce Hall 318, Cambridge, MA 02138