Do you love traveling but hate carrying luggage? There might be a new product that is just right for you. Unbound Merino is a line of travel clothes (t-shirts, hoodies, underwear, and socks) that can be worn for days, even weeks without washing.
Sound far-fetched? Apparently, the merino wool apparel claimed to repel odor and sweat is very popular among Silicon Valley professionals.
Video Spotlight: The Unbound Merino Compact Travel Hoodie
This post is based on the Forbes article, This Travel Clothing Brand Cofounder Can Go Anywhere in the World with Just One Backpack, by S. Dundas, October 31, 2018, and the YouTube video, The Unbound Merino Compact Travel Hoodie, by Unbound Merino, April 24, 2018. Image source: Gregory Kramer/Getty Images.
1. What external factors created opportunities for the development of this clothing line? Do you foresee external threats in the near future?
Guidance: Review the external factors typically involved in a SWOT analysis. A strong economy (the clothes are rather pricey), existing technology in product components and processes, a lack of competition in everyday merino wool clothing, and growth in international travel created opportunities for Unbound Merino’s business.
The most obvious threats are the legal environment and competition. The tariffs imposed on goods manufactured in China could disrupt Unbound Merino’s supply chain, and large apparel companies such as Gap or Uniqlo could enter this market and charge much lower prices.
2. Quality, price, delivery speed or reliability, and flexibility are the essential competitive priorities of an operations strategy. At Unbound Merino, which ones are order winners and which ones are qualifiers?
Guidance: Quality (high performance dimension) emerges as the primary order winner. Price (items are rather expensive), delivery reliability (see shipping information on Web site), and flexibility (limited product line; women’s apparel available at end of 2018) seem to be qualifiers.
3. The article mentions several phases in product development. List and briefly describe them.
Guidance: Product development took over a year. They selected merino wool clothing suppliers; developed the product specifications (merino wool for insulation and breathability, heavier wool for loose fit, thinner thread for smooth finish); developed multiple prototypes; thoroughly tested the products themselves through several trips; and launched them through their own distribution channels. It is unclear whether they developed the process specifications, but they appear to have worked very closely with the manufacturers.
4. Unbound Merino outsourced production to China. What are the pros and cons?
Guidance: The pros are lower prices in China for apparel manufacturing, supplier expertise (large number of merino wool clothing manufacturers), and ease of expansion to other countries.
The cons are potential disruptions in the supply chain (e.g. tariffs), rising wages in China and other Asian countries, and longer lead times. As a trade-off, however, the vast supply of containers used for shipping between China and the West Coast makes transportation costs affordable.