The global sourcing patterns of French clothing retailers: Determinants and implications for suppliers' industrial upgrading

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Combining a business-system perspective and a global value-chain perspective, I draw on French clothing import data and interviews to characterize the sourcing patterns of French clothing retailers and analyze their determinants. The dominant pattern identified is one of dispersed, unstable, and informal supplier relations, which can be explained by the importance of small specialized chains, the predominance of family and management ownership, and a low concentration level in French clothing retailing. Since the late 1990s, however, the largest retailers operating in the standard-product segment, some of them engaged in ‘financialization’ strategies, have launched supply-chain rationalization policies aimed at reducing the number of suppliers, stabilizing relations with preferred suppliers, and externalizing manufacturing-related services. A new sourcing model of Anglo-Saxon origin can thus be seen to be diffusing under the combined influence of concentration and financialization in the French clothing retail scene.