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The buffer zone

When wholesalers, importers and buying groups pull together for the good of the supply chain

Dickies Workwear decided to withdraw from the UK merchant market by April 2021, leaving the sector in a state of disarray.

It was big news – not only for the 280 staff reportedly made redundant – but also for the merchant sector, which has had to swiftly rearrange its workwear supplier arrangements to cover the loss.

The NMBS (National Merchant Buying Society) said Dickies Workwear accounted for around half of its workwear category in turnover and volume, so it has had to move quickly to fill that significant supply issue for its 1,200 merchant members.


And act fast, it did. The NMBS signed up five new suppliers in a few months to give its members some much needed options.

It’s not as if there weren’t already lots of challenges being faced by the market. The supply chain has been facing increased raw material costs, freight delays and soaring costs, unexpected product shortages thanks to lockdowns, plus local challenges like Brexit, among others.

It’s times like these that importers, buying groups and wholesalers have been proving their worth.

With many merchants and distributors severely stretched in these days of pandemic, these challenges could have been insurmountable for them to face alone, but thanks to diligent hard work further up the supply chain, some of these problems have been mitigated.

Of course, wholesalers, importers and buying groups have a vested interest in supporting distributors, merchants and retailers. And they can’t buffer their customers from all the challenges – not least those around pricing – but a properly functioning supply chain has the capacity to rally round to benefit everyone and provide stability. And it looks like that will continue to be a valuable quality as we move further into 2021.

Jonathon Harker