Exploring economics: the secret life of t-shirts
Exploring economics: the secret life of t-shirts

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Exploring economics: the secret life of t-shirts

1.2 The supply chain of a t-shirt

Whichever retailer we buy our t-shirt from, whether it is an online retailer, a supermarket, market trader or high-street shop, it is likely our t-shirt is part of a supply chain that includes several firms.

Activity 4

Consider the process of making a cotton t-shirt. This starts with growing cotton plants on a farm to make cotton fibres. Once the cotton fibre is harvested it can be turned into a yarn and woven into fabric. This fabric is cut and sewn to produce the t-shirt, which is then distributed to retailers to sell to the final consumers. Use this information to create a supply chain for a cotton t-shirt.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Retail

  2. Spinning and weaving

  3. Cotton production

  4. Making the garment

  • a.Second

  • b.Fourth

  • c.Third

  • d.First

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = b
  • 2 = a
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = c


Here is an example of the supply chain of a t-shirt.

Described image
Figure 3 The supply chain of a t-shirt.

A cotton t-shirt is a cheap, lightweight product which is not fragile. This suggests that it is easy and inexpensive to transport. As a product it has a simple design which is easy to convey to workers elsewhere. There is less need to be continuously checking design and quality. The t-shirt is therefore a commodity which may be easily moved from one firm to another or one country to another so that its supply chain can involve many firms and many countries.


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