Cotton On says it will get fashion on shelves faster by going local

Business Insider SA
Cotton On store. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Cotton On store. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • The Cotton On group in South Africa says it is committed to looking at local procurement opportunities.
  • That will shorten its lead times, its Africa country manager said this week.
  • It's also aggressively growing its store footprint, mainly for its brands with a smaller presence like Factorie and Typo.
  • A new app is also being developed, which promises to create a more seamless shopping experience for its customers.
  • For more stories go to

Australian retailer Cotton On, which made its South African debut more than a decade ago, says it sees the benefit of increasing local supply, one of them being that it would help deliver products much faster.

The company, which has been in talks with the Department of Trade and Industry, is working on onboarding local suppliers for its apparel division, Natalie Wills, its Africa country manager, told Business Insider South Africa this week.  

"We will be bringing in apparel locally, so the first order's coming; it's a starting point," Wills said.

"All our production team and all our buying team sit in Australia; that being said, we know we want to diversify supply… So we went through a process of actually working with the company locally, as South Africa, to go and identify local sources for us here," Wills said.

She said the process was kicked off around two years ago and met some hurdles resulting from disruptions from the July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, where the company is based.

"We selected certain suppliers; we're about to get our first deliveries now," she said.

"I actually think that we can have a faster turnaround time; the benefit could be there totally… We needed to find the right partners; we've invested in time to do that, and now, let's see how we go; we can do good things from there," she said.

For many years, clothing retailers in the country have relied on cheap Chinese imports, which crippled the local clothing manufacturing sector. In recent years, they have been recommitting to local procurement to enliven the once thriving industry.

The company already has some local suppliers for other parts of the business, including its paper bags.

Part of Cotton On's plans for South Africa include strengthening its omnichannel offering by introducing a new mobile app which will also be linked to its Perks loyalty programme.

"We're going to roll out an app, and that app will make the process more seamless… And it's going to be really targeted at what the customer is looking for. It will be able to click and shop more easily," she said.  

"We've already rolled that out in some markets, and we were just developing the right version so that it can be suitable for Android and on Apple devices in South Africa," Wills said.

The retailer is also planning to aggressively expand its store network of about 175 stores, especially for its brands which currently have a smaller footprint in the country. For Factorie and Typo, it plans to double the number of stores while it will take a slower, more cautious approach for its Cotton On stores. 

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