The Impact of Environmental Factors on Business Strategies in Selected Major U.S. Apparel Manufacturing Companies 1970-2005

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of environmental factors on business strategies for U.S. apparel manufacturing companies. Three research objectives were established to achieve this study purpose: (a) to explore the business environment of the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry from 1970 to 2005, (b) to investigate the business strategies for selected major U.S. apparel manufacturing companies in response to the environment from 1970 to 2005, and (c) to determine if patterns or themes are found in changes of the business strategies for the selected U.S. apparel manufacturing companies.

Two theories were used as a framework for this study: organizational interpretation process (e.g., Daft & Weick, 1984; Milliken, 1990) and organizational adaptation theory (e.g., Miles & Snow, 1978; Zeithaml & Zeithaml, 1984). Qualitative analysis was conducted for data analysis. Part 1 of data analysis was the in-depth exploration of the business environment for the apparel manufacturing industry in terms of globalization, technology, and consumer; and apparel firms' business strategies that have been implemented in response to these environments, from 1970 to 2005. Part 2 of data analysis was the case studies of two sample apparel companies (i.e., Nike, Inc., VF Corporation). The business strategies of the two companies in response to their business environments from 1970 to 2005 were investigated.

The in-depth exploration of general business strategies of the U.S. apparel industry and the case studies of two sample companies' specific business strategies revealed that U.S. apparel manufacturing companies have gone through the process that was proposed in the model of the study; they have been significantly affected by the environmental changes and have made changes to their business strategies in order to survive. These changes did vary between the two companies in the case study and were related to the original organization of the companies showing a variation in interpretation of the information.

apparel manufacturing, business strategy, organizational adaptation, organizational interpretation process, business environment