New Look: Competing through the Design-Supply Chain Interface

Dr Omera Khan, Lecturer in the School of Materials, University of Manchester, UK, discusses her case New Look: Competing through the Design-Supply Chain Interface, which she wrote while a Research Fellow at Cranfield University School of Management, UK.

Omera KahnResearch on concurrent design within the supply chain is a relatively unexplored but vital area for the success of global businesses. New Look is unique as a successful and rapidly growing business in the fashion retailing market: in January 2009, it reported a 15% rise in sales, while others are struggling to survive. Many cases have been written about Zara and I wanted to look at another example, trying to understand New Look's formula for success and uncover the strategies it adopted for the interface between product design and the supply chain. In fact, it was refreshing to see how a UK fashion retailer can emulate the successes of its Spanish competitor. Specifically, the case examines: 
  • supply chain management in the fast fashion industry
  • concurrent product design and the supply chain
  • challenges for the UK's fast fashion industry
  • outsourcing/in-sourcing product design by UK fashion retailers to the developing economies.

Teaching objectives

This case is designed to enable students to critically evaluate the supply chain operations of New Look, and isolate the key supply chain drivers for sustaining a competitive business strategy. They need to evaluate how New Look, through better alignment between product design and supply chain management, was able to bring in new designs and trends to the customers more quickly, and evaluate the challenges and opportunities for managing a global supply chain. The case is designed for use in the supply chain management curriculum of MSc and MBA programmes, but it also works at undergraduate level. The teaching note provides a detailed teaching plan and suggests discussion and/or assessment questions.

Writing the case

Writing this field researched case was remarkably straightforward. I had attended case writing workshop run by The Case Centre in which I developed the template for the case and this really helped me over the main hurdle of getting started. In fact, the workshop was extremely encouraging. It made me realise that writing a case was not as difficult as I had previously thought, and the really good feedback I received on my ideas from the group gave me the confidence and motivation to complete the case. I first made contact by email with the New Look supply chain director which was followed by several meetings. Interviews were arranged with key personnel in design, purchasing, supply chain and logistics over a two-year period. I tested the case draft with classes in Sweden and the UK which led to some modifications before the final draft was submitted to The Case Centre.

Any advice?

I would encourage others to attend a case writing workshop run by The Case Centre. It is better than other writing workshops I have attended, providing a very supportive and encouraging environment with outstanding tutors who are sympathetic to participants' endless complaints as to why one can't get one's ideas down on paper. The workshop does an excellent job in helping you to structure your ideas, plan your time and, ultimately, complete your case study.

Case details

Click on the case title to view further details and, where available, an educator preview copy.

New Look: Competing through the Design-Supply Chain Interface
Omera Khan
Cranfield University School of Management
Ref 608-016-1
Also available:
Teaching note

Ref 608-016-8

About the author

Dr Omera Khan is a Lecturer in Supply Chain Management at the School of Materials, University of Manchester, UK.

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