The apparel and textile business blog from Petah Marian
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Channelling the Olympic spirit
18 Jul 2012 11:36
A colleague expressed horror earlier this week on realising that the only entry to the Olympic stadiums in London will be through a purpose-built Westfield Mall. She was surprised at the rampant commercialism of the games.
However, the furore following news that the US Olympic team's uniforms were made in China instead of on home soil, only emphasises just how important the Olympics are to the apparel and footwear sectors.
After an outpouring of opprobrium on Friday and over the weekend, Ralph Lauren promised that the American team uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics would be produced by US firms.
While this particular issue has caught the public's imagination, the road to 2012 has been marred by scandal, with NGOs alleging child labour use and worker exploitation in factories producing licenced goods for the Olympics.
The Olympics are expected to be watched by 4bn people around the world, and with a lack of perimeter advertising, the clothes on the athletes' backs (and shoes on their feet) offer sportswear companies the greatest opportunity to promote their wares.
And how better to do so than to take some of the credit for athletes' success, through designing products that will make them harder, better, faster, stronger, and so on.
In recent months, major sportswear brands have been keen to tout their latest innovations, some of which have improved athletes' performances to such a degree that they've been banned.
For example, Speedo's LZR Racer Swimsuit was prohibited because it provides an unfair advantage over non-LZR wearers. According to Euromonitor analyst Magdalena Kondej, the suit reduces drag by up to 6% on swimmers and is made using a fabric containing woven elastane-nylon and polyurethane.
However the brand will see the benefit of its latest suit, the Fastskin3, which claims to offer full-body passive drag reduction of up to 16.6%, an 11% improvement in the swimmer's oxygen economy, and a 5.2% reduction in body active drag.
Patriotism, particularly well highlighted by the manufacturing furore in the US, should not be underestimated. Kondej predicts that based on average apparel spend, population size, sports attitudes and strength of the national teams, GB, US, China, Russia and German team branded apparel will be particularly strong sellers.
In a year when the consumer environment means that companies are scrabbling for every dollar or pound they can get their hands on, the Olympics provide companies with a magnificent opportunity. Here's hoping the sector gets the gold this Olympics.
Fashion industry on Queen's Honours List
20 Jun 2012 15:04
The secretary of the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI), Stephanie Ingham, was among those in the industry awarded an MBE in Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
The ASBCI highlighted Ingham's 40 year career in the industry, where she has helped unite retailers, garment, manufacturers, componentry suppliers, textile testing houses, garment aftercare specliasts, fashion colleges and universities through the association.
Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton, who designed the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress, was given an OBE for her services to the British Fashion Industry.
And Mulberry creative director Emma Hill was awarded an CBE for her services to the British Fashion Industry, while jewellery and accessories designer Lara Bohinc received an MBE.
UKFT Rise supports next generation of fashion leaders
18 Jun 2012 12:26
I had the pleasure of attending the UK Fashion and Textile Association's first UKFT Rise event on Thursday night.
UKFT Rise is a new network for the next generation rising up in the fashion and textile industry. It will be a quarterly event with a selection of inspirational speakers from across the sector.
Asos founder and CEO Nick Robertson was guest speaker, talking about his experiences growing the online fashion retailer as well as the challenges facing the industry.
Describing why the industry body launched the programme, UKFT chairman Peter Lucas said: "We spoke to many people in the industry who said there was a lack of resource for the younger generation. Our peers built their businesses on networking with customers, competitors and suppliers, building strong career-long relationships. This is difficult to do in today's fast paced business world and these relationships are harder to form.
"We think it is so important that the next leaders of this industry can gain knowledge and experience to help them build their careers and their businesses. To do this in a non-intimidating and relaxed atmosphere with fantastic inspirational speakers is something we feel is our duty to fulfil for all young ambitious people in fashion and textiles."
M&A juggernaut continues apace
06 Jun 2012 16:45
The M&A juggernaut continued apace last week after private equity firm Sycamore Partners reached a deal to acquire troubled US women's wear retailer Talbots for US$2.75 a share - a significant drop on its recent US$3.05 per share offer.
The deal came less than a week after the two companies let an exclusive negotiating period expire after saying they had been unable to reach an agreement on the sale of the business.
The Jones Group also revealed it is to acquire the Brian Atwood footwear brand. The move will help accelerate the development of Brian Atwood as a global luxury brand,"supporting the expansion of his vision into other categories".
Indeed, the past week or so has seen some late spring-cleaning from Hanesbrands and Nike.
Hanesbrands announced plans to cut the production of basic apparel used in screen printing, exit its private label business, the Outer Banks sportswear brand, and sell its European operations. Earlier this year the company admitted that tougher competition has led to rapid price declines in its imagewear business.
And Nike is to sell its Cole Haan and Umbro lines so it can focus on growing its Nike, Jordan, Converse and Hurley brands. Speculation over who might acquire the two brands has already seen Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley tipped as a potential bidder for football specialist Umbro.
Some US apparel retailers found reason to smile last week, with many recording stronger May sales. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, US retailers, excluding drug stores, recorded a 4% sales increase during the month.
As the UK returns to work after a very wet four-day Jubilee holiday, industry pundits have suggested that good weather would be one of the major factors in boosting retail sales. While analysts expect a short-term lift, they largely argued it would come on the back of several months of pretty dismal sales.
Meanwhile, smart textiles and wearable technology have the potential to change the way people dress, communicate, respond to emergencies and even entertain themselves. This fascinating four-part management briefing looks at the opportunities and risks in this nascent sector.
UK retailers look abroad for growth
28 May 2012 15:18
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics found that April UK clothing and footwear sales were down 5.2% on the prior year.
Attributing the declines to poor weather, the ONS found that the total value of retail sales rose by just 0.4% over April, making this the slowest rate of growth since January 2010. The slowdown was largely due to declines at textile, clothing and footwear stores, the ONS said.
As the UK market remains stagnant, UK retailers must look abroad for growth, and one retailer doing this with some success is online retailer Asos, which recorded a 103% increase in international sales over the year.
The company is tightening its focus on the 20-something consumer, a segment that CEO Nick Robertson told just-style is globalising faster than any other generation.
Another retailer focusing its efforts abroad is Marks and Spencer, which revealed on Tuesday that it would slow its space growth in the UK and redouble its efforts internationally, with plans to open 100 foreign outlets a year.
The announcement came as M&S recorded a decline in full-year profit and a mere 0.2% increase in clothing sales over the period.
The retailer said it booked a mixed performance in women's wear, but had successes in lingerie, children's wear and men's wear.
Across the Atlantic, PVH raised its full-year forecasts on the back of a 61% surge in first-quarter earnings. The brand attributed the growth to strong global demand for its Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands.
Meanwhile, Adidas' woes continue in India, with the company's Reebok subsidiary filing a criminal complaint against two former senior executives over irregularities in the business.
According to local press reports, former managing director Subhinder Singh Prem and COO Vishnu Bhagat have been accused of stealing products, setting up secret warehouses and fixing accounts, leading the company to lose INR8.7bn (US$155.3m).
In Bangladesh, a number of fashion firms, including H&M, Levi Strauss, Carrefour and Tesco have backed a three-year programme to clean up production in the Bangladeshi garment industry. The scheme will help local garment washing, dyeing and finishing units adopt cleaner and safer production methods, including technologies to reduce water consumption and effluents, and is designed to help the sector enhance its long-term competitiveness and sustainability.
The future for Walmart is smaller stores
24 Apr 2012 10:49
Walmart should focus its attention on smaller stores as consumers shift away from out-of-town shopping centres, according to Kantar analyst Bryan Roberts.
Speaking about large out-of-town operators, he says they are "slowly becoming not obsolete, but out-dated, and are increasingly having to "run very fast just to stay still".
Roberts believes the renaissance of town centre and proximity shopping can be attributed to the rising cost of petrol, the fact consumers don't want to be faced with "lots of things I can't afford" in large out-of-town stores, and a rise in the number of online and discount retailers selling non-food products.
"For the first time in 50 years the average size of grocery stores is declining," he explains.
Speaking at the launch of a book he has co-written on ‘Walmart: Key Insights and Practical Lessons from the World's Largest Retailer,' Roberts notes Walmart's most credible long-term competitor is online operator Amazon, which is on target to reach a global turnover of US$100bn by 2015 - a decade faster than it took Walmart to achieve the same.
That said, stores will remain integral to the customer experience. "Amazon's Achilles heel is its lack of a physical store presence. Traditional retailers should be capitalising on their value-added proposition and investing in better training for customer-facing staff, boosting after-sales care and using their stores to make it easier for shoppers to pick-up goods ordered online."
"Home delivery e-commerce is the opposite of a convenience," Roberts emphasised.
While Amazon is a credible threat to Walmart, Roberts is quick to emphasise that suppliers bowing to Amazon's pressure to continually lower prices might not be the best strategy.
"Amazon is amazing at getting prices down, but it's difficult to get them back up again," and offering the online giant preferential rates is likely to irritate suppliers' other customers.
Unlike other retailers, Amazon makes so much money on its Kindle and virtual services that it "doesn't care that much about profit on retail".
As we shift towards a multi-channel future, it will become increasingly important for retailers to differentiate themselves depending on the format they operating in. "Retailers need to stop trying to be all things to all people in all formats," Roberts added.
What now for British manufacturing?
19 Apr 2012 14:35
With all of the hot air surrounding clothing retailers and brands bringing their manufacturing operations back to the UK, today's announcement that Aquascutum's Corby site will close is just another nail in the sector's coffin.
Some 115 staff have been made redundant as a result of the decision, with immediate effect.
When industry pundits talk about successful stories in British clothing, they talk about things like heritage branding, premium pricing and luxury - all of which were central tenets of Aquascutum's positioning. Yet this doesn't seem to extend to the Corby site, which administrators say is "not viable to continue to trade due to loss-making operations and a lack of funding".
Another complaint by those looking to manufacture in the UK is the difficulty getting good staff, and issues around the ageing workforce. But another 115 experienced workers are today without a job.
M&A speculation continues
03 Apr 2012 09:46
The M&A rumour mill continued apace last week, with suggestions that department store operator Sears has been in discussions with a number of private-equity firms to sell its Lands' End brand, and speculation that South Korean conglomerate E-Land is preparing a US$1.8bn bid for footwear company Collective Brands.
Meanwhile, there have been reports over the weekend that Liz Claiborne Inc has been in talks with private-equity firms over taking the company private.
A deal that was not mere speculation was Wacoal's acquisition of UK lingerie firm Eveden. Wacoal announced the acquisition of the Northamptonshire-based owner of the Fantasie, Freya, Huit, Fauve, Elomi and Godess brands for GBP148m on Friday.
One company looking to deflect attention last week was H&M. While the retailer plans to launch a new chain during 2013, it remained coy about the details of the new brand, aside from the fact that it will open in a European city, and will sit in a higher price segment than its current labels. The announcement came as the world's second largest clothing retailer reported an increase in net profit and sales over the fourth quarter, but admitted that margins fell as the company maintained its prices despite rising input costs.
Meanwhile, just-style's managing editor, Leonie Barrie, attended the Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong last week. Rising costs, finding capable capacity, new sourcing locations and collaboration across the supply chain were key topics at the event. just-style has pulled together some of the best quotes from Prime Source in two articles, but there will be more on the site from this event later in the week.
In the UK, the government launched the "Portas-Plus" plan, in response to retail guru Mary Portas' high street review. The plan will see a series of funds opened to regenerate high streets. The response to the plan was mixed, with the British Retail Consortium's director of business, Tom Ironside, saying he was concerned the government "hasn't yet matched her level of ambition with its response".
This article was originally published on 2 April.
Adapt or die - why profitable companies go broke.
26 Mar 2012 14:59
The garment industry has one of the highest bankruptcy rates of any commercial sector. What makes the industry different to any other sector is the large number of long-established, previously profitable companies that go broke, argues garment industry consultant David Birnbaum. "We have a pattern: we create innovative companies that rise and prosper, only to decay and die," he says.
The reason, according to Birnbaum, that so many companies fail is their inability to adapt to the changing needs of consumers. He says it is likely that two former giants of the US clothing sector, Sears and Liz Claiborne, will disappear completely over the next five years. He argues that process is already under way with Sears selling off stores and Liz Claiborne selling its eponymous label.
One company that is looking to avoid joining that list is Perry Ellis, which revealed plans to shutter a number of businesses that have averaged US$30-40m in revenue over the past two years but "have not contributed substantially in profitability" as part of a broader restructuring programme. It expects to close these businesses by the end of this year and will look to cut costs through infrastructure improvements and a reduced headcount. The comments came as the company recorded a decline in fourth-quarter net profit.
Meanwhile, Zara recorded another year of growth, driven largely by international expansion. Over the year, the world's largest clothing retailer put down stores across 49 markets, and entered five, posting a 12% increase in net profit to reach EUR1.9bn.
From the world's largest retailer, to the world's largest sourcing group - Li & Fung also recorded positive full-year results last week, posting a 24% hike in full-year profit. The company attributed the growth to the expansion of its sourcing network and the growth of its Asian business.
Asia remains an important prospect for companies looking internationally, with research released last week highlighting the potential of China as an attractive e-commerce prospect. According to Chinese e-commerce group VIPStore, the country is set to become the world's largest e-commerce market by 2015. It said that China has 485m internet users, more than the US and Japan combined, yet internet penetration is only at 37%.
Neiman Marcus is one retailer to take advantage of this potential, announcing plans to enter China through the launch of an e-commerce site next year. It said it will invest US$28m in Glamour Sales Holding to build the online business, as well as supporting the growth of Glamour Sales' existing flash sales business.
Finally, Leonie Barrie is attending the Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong this week. If you're attending, please drop by the stand to say hello.
Water use remains high on the agenda
21 Mar 2012 12:37
Today (22 March) is World Water Day, and reducing the amount of water used by the apparel industry and ensuring that it remains unpolluted remains high on the agenda.
In an attempt to convince consumers to use less water by washing their clothing less regularly, Levi Strauss has challenged its staff to stop washing their jeans this week.
The company's has called upon its employees around the world to wear the same pair of jeans from 19-23 March. Participating employees will receive a Go Water<Less non-removable tag made of sponge on the first day to put on their jeans, which will inflate if placed in water.
The company said that besides the environmental benefits of washing jeans less frequently, it is a "well known denim-enthusiast's secret" that airing the garment instead of washing will help create a bespoke fit over time, shaping the garment to better suit the wearer's frame.
Levi's said that by washing jeans once every two weeks, consumers can reduce the water used in a jean's life cycle by 23%.
Meanwhile, research from Greenpeace suggests there could be additional advantages to cutting back on the number of wash cycles. It has relseased research that suggests that hazardous chemicals in clothing from a number of major brands is being released into public waterways when they are washed by consumers.
The research measured the percentage of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) which were washed out during simulated standard domestic laundering conditions for 14 clothing items.
The chemicals, used in textile manufacture, enter rivers, lakes and seas where they break down to form nonylphenol, which has hormone-disrupting properties and is harmful to human health.
Greenpeace said the brands, which include Abercrombie & Fitch, G-Star and Calvin Klein, are "unknowingly polluting the public water supplies in regions and countries around the world, including those where there are restrictions or bans on the use of these chemicals."