The potential role for social media to improve agility in South African fashion industry supply chains.
With growing competition from international brands and increasing volatility, South African apparel companies have recently made significant efforts to improve their supply chain agility. Companies operating in this industry thus continue to seek ways to improve the flexibility and responsiveness of their supply chains. An insight into new technologies that could assist with these improvements could prove beneficial for South African brands to reach international benchmarks for agility. While academic literature on the subject is increasing but still limited, social media are growing in popularity, internationally, as technological tools that can facilitate visibility and responsiveness of extended supply chains. Studies on the use of social media in South African firms are currently largely focused on their use in marketing, with none identified on their potential or current usage in supply chain management. The Agile Supply Chain Framework, which was developed by Harrison, Christopher and Van Hoek in 1999, was used to guide the study. The four characteristics of agility: market sensitivity, virtual integration, process integration and network based management, as identified by the framework, were used to analyse if there is potential for social media to increase agility in the South African fashion industry. Qualitative research methods were used for the study. A case study approach was implemented and data was collected using in-depth interviews involving eight participants involved in the supply chain of one of South Africa’s top apparel retailers. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. The results from the analysis reflected that the uses of social media in the supply chain are minimal, with one tool, Whatsapp surfacing as the most widely used in the Supply Chain and Logistics department. While management were mostly supportive of the introduction of social media in the organisation for supply chain management purposes, concerns were raised about issues such as the lack of security of information and the possibility of losing productivity amongst employees. However, despite these concerns, a substantial number of participants indicated that they would be willing to adopt social media if they were aware of other tools that could benefit their organisation.
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