US textile and apparel manufacturing enjoys resurgence
60% of US consumers would pay 10% more for an item if it was US-made
Textile and apparel manufacturing in the US is enjoying a resurgence with companies based in India and China investing in US facilities and almost eight out of ten US consumers preferring to buy an American-made product than an imported one, according to a new report.
The report also notes more than 60% of consumers would be willing to pay 10% more for an item if it was made in the US.
'Reshoring', which appears to have the support of the public, may have been triggered partly by concerns over factory safety and by growing fears over the safety of chemicals and a lack of traceability. Equally, retailers and brands are being taken to task over environmental sustainability. All of these are easier to monitor and control in US factories than they are in far-off developing countries.
At the same time, developments in technology – notably automation and robotics – are enabling US factories to cut their costs while proximity to the market provides producers in the US with a significant competitive advantage over companies based in distant countries in terms of quick response and market knowledge.
However, the resurgence in manufacturing in the US has been fairly modest and followed substantial losses between 2005 and 2008. Indeed, the US apparel industry still supplies less than 3% of the US domestic market for apparel in volume terms. Also, US apparel imports continue to be dominated by low cost Asian suppliers, reflecting the fact that cost minimisation continues to play a vital role in sourcing decisions.
One of the biggest obstacles to reshoring is a desperate shortage of skilled operatives. Moreover, there are not enough people who can do the training. Most of these people retired long ago without being replaced by younger entrants. There is also a lack of skilled technicians who are able to maintain sewing machinery.
To fill the gap, migrants are playing an important role in the reshoring of textiles and clothing. In general, migrants have a younger age profile than that of the US population as a whole and, if motivated properly, they are likely to work harder and more energetically than their older counterparts. Besides, economic migrants are, by definition, motivated by the potential for increasing their standard of living and are therefore willing to put in the hours and effort required to achieve this. Above all, many migrants bring with them the sewing skills they acquired in their countries of origin - particularly those migrants who originate in Mexico or other Latin American countries.
However, the availability of migrants as a human resource is likely to be limited by public opinion. The subject of migration raises temperatures in most host countries, and there is evidence that the tide is very much against migration on a significant scale.
The full report on 'Reshoring – a renaissance for the textile and apparel industries in advanced economies or a passing fad?' – was published by Textiles Intelligence in issue 180 of Textile Outlook International.
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