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Sourcing Apparel: Vertical VS Horizontal Integration (Pros & Cons)

With almost 70% of direct garment cost in textile products coming from raw materials, finding the structure that delivers the lowest cost when sourcing textiles and apparel can be challenging. Many mills operate with horizontal integration, and others have taken a vertically integrated approach.  Each of the two approaches has pros and cons to importers…

Textile And Apparel Sourcing Challenges in the Global Economy


The shift to the global economy of the last few decades has been dramatic. And although many complex factors have driven this change, it is safe to say that cost has been the key factor in many company’s decisions to import raw materials or to manufacture in low-cost regional markets.  

The result has been a shift in both retail and manufacturing trends worldwide.  But as the global economic model has matured, it has become apparent that for many industries the shift to offshoring of raw materials, components and finished goods has brought challenges to the “low-cost at all cost” model.  


Exploring Vertical VS Horizontal Integration In Textile Mills

Vertical VS Horizontal Integration In Textile Mills

Let’s look in more detail at the pros and cons of each type of integration to importers engaged in textile and apparel sourcing.


Vertically Integrated Textile Mills

In vertically integrated mills production is managed from start to finish with mills conducting the yarn prep such as carding, drawing and spinning, all the way through weaving/knitting and the dying and finishing of apparel.

This approach provides several advantages and disadvantages:



Horizontally Integrated Textile Mills

In horizontally integrated mills fabric is often purchased in greige form and “prepared for dying” (PFD) fabric is produced by a different entity or by several entities. These fabrics are often delivered to a single center for dying and then sub-contracted out to other converters/finishers for printing or finishing, and may even be sent to an additional vendor for packing.




Risks & Control Issues Related To Horizontal Integration

Horizontal integration can give a company an economy of scale and leverage with vendors and suppliers on price, but it does not address many key issues impacting today’s markets.

This leaves the loop on traceability open and susceptible to vendor and supplier variances in key raw materials and components as the buyer remains focused simply on more market and lower cost without necessarily building stronger vendor compliance and control.  

And while control can be established through testing of the final product, the lack of traceability down to the lot can prove more costly, generate more waste and exacerbate compliance and sustainability due to the reactive testing measures that must be taken and the information, such as lot traceability, which may be lost prior to testing.

Some examples of textile and apparel quality issues affected by lack of traceability may include:


How Vertical Integration Succeeds Over Horizontal

In Vertical Integration, the company that owns and controls the factories and sources of material and controls may control other aspects of the supply chain such as logistics and distribution¹.  

In this type of integration, the parent company controls all phases of production from the inception of design through raw materials, production, and post-processing.

By possessing this level of control, the company can require traceability for its apparel products from the initial manufacture of raw materials through to the final product.  This can help address two very important issues:

  1. Compliance:  Textile and apparel companies that have moved to vertical integration can build their compliance into the supply chain from beginning to end.  This allows them to incorporate the cost of compliance into their product cost at all levels of production and distribution. 
  2. Quality:  As important as compliance, quality in vertically integrated companies allows tight testing and quality control throughout the process.  As the company owns or controls each phase of the product production chain, quality can be monitored and confidently certified at each phase.  

    In the event of a quality failure, earlier detection can reduce the cost of non-conformance as a direct cost as well as protect indirect costs that could accrue to the brand name had the product suffered quality failure in the field in the hands of the consumer.


What Next If Your Supply Chain Is Horizontally Integrated?

For companies using a horizontally integrated approach when sourcing apparel or textiles, there are solutions that can help reduce the risk and mitigate specific end-product quality concerns. And global companies with large production volumes and diverse and extensive product offerings have higher motivation and vested interest in controlling and monitoring their raw material supply to control both quality and cost.  

Many quality testing and audit companies, like SgT, exist that can assist a company in developing a proactive plan for managing the risks caused by horizontal integration of their raw material and production. Some of the key benefits include:

While sourcing in the global economy will remain cost-driven for the near term, evolving dynamics and trends seem to dictate that they won’t always be exclusively so.  

Consumer tastes and increasing global concerns have posed a challenge to horizontally integrated companies to include and invest in resources to properly test, quality manage and trace production to improve overall accountability. 


Your View…

How are costs in your supply chain affecting you today? Are you wrestling with a horizontally integrated supply chain, or is your sourcing and production more tightly controlled?

Please share your experiences, or ask any questions you may have on this topic by leaving a comment below. We are on hand to answer you.



¹ “Fast Fashion in a Flat World: Global Sourcing Strategies”, by Barbara Mihm, University of Wisconsin, International Business and Economics Research Journal, June 2010, Volume 9 Number 6

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