Blog: Leonie BarrieFactory fires reignite safety concerns

Leonie Barrie | 17 September 2012

Brands sourcing clothing and footwear from Pakistan are being urged to undertake immediate reviews of their suppliers after two separate factory fires last week killed around 265 workers.

In what is thought to be the country's worst industrial incident, a fire completely engulfed the Ali Enterprise factory in Karachi, killing more than 240 people. According to reports, many victims were trapped with no fire exits and locked doors.

The factory was believed to be supplying goods to the European market - and labour rights groups are now warning that similar disasters could happen again if the root causes of the fires are not urgently addressed.

The challenges facing global buyers are also under the spotlight in Cambodia. A decade after the launch of the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia scheme, a new report describes the initiative as a "positive development" - but says more should be done to make global buyers more accountable for the wages paid to garment workers.

The latest projections from the US government suggest global cotton stockpiles in the current season will be even higher than forecast just a month ago - with the expected rise putting even more downward pressure on world prices. The gains are attributed to a combination of the weak global economy, competition from manmade fibres, low levels of consumption, and imports by China.

But Indian denim manufacturers are coping better than reports would suggest with a 25% rise in the price of synthetic indigo dye imported from China. They have warned, however, that they may try to pass on the cost increase in the next buying season.

When it comes to luxury apparel and goods, Chinese consumers now account for around 25% of world sales. But their increasing sophistication and propensity for overseas shopping could lead to the global megabrands losing market share, a new report says. The Chinese government has also scaled down the country's consumer goods growth target for the next five years as part of its latest development plan for domestic trade.

Signs that the Chinese market is starting to show 'luxury fatigue' also seem to be borne out by Burberry, which has warned that its full-year profits will be at the "lower end of market expectations" following a slowdown in sales growth.


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