Blog: Leonie BarrieCautious optimism prevails for 2013

Leonie Barrie | 11 February 2013

2013 got off to a strong start for US clothing and footwear retailers in January, with many reporting their best performance since September 2011. Comparable-store sales rose 4.5% year-on-year during the month, according to figures released last week.

The better-than-expected results were helped by two extra pre-holiday selling days compared to last year, combined with cool temperatures that helped chains sell through seasonal merchandise. Yet retailers hoping this trend will continue might be disappointed, with cool weather across the country slowing sales of early spring lines.

However, apparel industry executives canvassed by just-style for this year's annual management briefing on issues to watch in the year ahead are cautiously optimistic there will be some improvement in the business environment in 2013.

But when it comes to sourcing and the supply chain there's a lot of talk about facing up to the 'new normal', an environment where supply exceeds demand, conditions remain intensely competitive, margins continue to be squeezed, and retail buying patterns favour smaller quantities, shorter lead times and a need for greater flexibility.

The creation of a new harmonised customs system between the ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also offers an opportunity for the region's clothing and textile industry - but only through strategic partnerships and better vertical integration.

Apparel maker Gildan Activewear is considering ramping up the production of performance products following its acquisition of Anvil Knitwear in May last year. The company, which last week said it had returned to profit in its first quarter of fiscal 2013, plans to convert the Anvil facility in Honduras to focus on these speciality lines, which have already helped lift sales.

And apparel company Hanesbrands ended fiscal 2012 with a near doubling in Q4 profit following a reduction in debt and its exit from under-performing businesses. The US-based sock, T-shirt and underwear maker also revealed it may look to invest in acquisitions to drive growth and strengthen its business portfolio.


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