By: Leonie Barrie
just-style editor Leonie Barrie shares her thoughts on some of the top stories in the news.
With most holiday merchandise brought into the US early as retailers rushed to beat a possible shutdown of West Coast ports, it is perhaps not surprising that apparel imports fell in November. But with shipments plunging from eight of the top-ten suppliers, Vietnam alone was the stand-out performer during the month.
Early holiday promotions, the continued growth of online shopping, and an improving economy appear to be changing the way US consumers approach what has traditionally been the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
US businesses are urging the government to intervene in the ongoing dispute at US west coast ports, amid worsening delays on shipments of holiday merchandise and fears a total shutdown may be imminent.
The over-riding message from a review last week to look at ongoing efforts to improve worker rights and factory safety in Bangladesh's ready-made garment and knitwear industry seems to be that "a lot of work still remains to be done."
With global cotton prices sitting at a five-year low, apparel firms should be benefitting from lower unit costs. That's the theory at least. The reality, however, is that any gains are unlikely to show up until the second half of next year - and more likely than not will be offset by rising labour and compliance costs.
Any talk of Gap Inc's portfolio invariably focuses on its Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands. But new number crunching suggests the company's Athleta women's athletic wear line is also gaining momentum.
The international apparel supply chain faces a complex array of risks and variables, and buyers are putting a high priority on minimum disruption. Indeed, there's a stark link between the three top-ten supplier countries whose imports to the US have fallen this year so far.
Do the biggest companies also have the best supply chains - or should it be instead that the best supply chains help grow the most successful companies? It's quite a question, but there's no doubt that there's a connection between the two, especially when it comes to Zara-owner Inditex, H&M and Nike.
Among the numerous statements released today (24 April) to mark the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, there is a depressing similarity hanging over them all: that despite a year of industry-wide action aimed at improving conditions in the country's booming garment sector, much more work still needs to be done.
An annual update of US apparel industry trends might use data that is more than a year old, but it offers an interesting snapshot of the state of play in the US textile and apparel trade, from domestic production trends to import costs.
Having spent the past two years building up massive cotton stockpiles that now account for an estimated half of the world's supply, the Chinese government is selling off some of its reserves.
Efforts to increase supply chain transparency should include closer collaboration and partnerships with suppliers, an industry event has heard.
The falling value of the Indian rupee is proving to be something of a mixed bag for the country's clothing industry.
In its constant search for cheaper and cheaper production bases around the world, there are few places the apparel and textile industry has left untouched. But still the search goes on. From Africa to the Americas, Burma to Bangladesh, there seems to be a never-ending debate as to the next sourcing hotspot.
The US decision last month to suspend trade benefits for Bangladesh was a symbolic gesture intended to emphasise its frustrations over factory safety in the country's garment sector. But could the European Union's repeated threats to cut access to its own GSP system prove more of a wake-up call?
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