Canada's apparel producers are at risk of falling behind their US counterparts in the e-commerce stakes, according to a new business study released by an independent professional services firm on Friday.

The study by Richter Consulting reveals 60 per cent of respondents fear a loss of competitiveness if they do not implement e-business solutions, with more than 80 per cent of executives polled feeling the Canadian apparel industry lags behind the US when it comes to e-commerce.

But despite those concerns, eight out of 10 admit they have budgeted less than C$50,000 in the last three years to pursue e-business solutions, and 45 per cent have spent less than C$10,000.

Only 20 per cent of the companies surveyed share databases with their customers or suppliers, and less than 25 per cent make use of the Internet for transactions with retailers and suppliers, with half citing financial considerations as the main deterrent to implementing e-commerce strategies.

"Loss of competitiveness in the face of continuing globalisation is the most significant concern revealed by the study," explained Alan Milstein, of Richter Consulting. "Apparel executives believe that e-business will be a key factor to penetrating the US market."

Les Kumar-Misir, of Industry Canada, added: "This study provides Canada's apparel companies with important insights into the steps that must be taken to ensure sustainable competitive advantage.

"With the impending implementation of World Trade Organisation agreements in 2005, Canadian apparel manufacturers cannot ignore the need to innovate and remain competitive on a global scale."

The report is available to view on the Richter Consulting website at: