Blog: Michelle RussellUS port dipute conclusion nears

Michelle Russell | 23 February 2015

A tentative agreement on a new five-year contract has been agreed for some 20,000 dockworkers at 29 US West Coast ports, ending nine months of discussions. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been engaged in talks since 12 May to replace the existing six-year contact, which expired on 30 June.

The move comes after President Obama intervened in a bid to reach a resolution. It is estimated the disruption could cost retailers as much as US$7bn this year.

An increasing amount of hype in recent years has focused on the business of reshoring, including two separate reports in the last two weeks. Yet, while industry observers are keen to highlight the opportunities offered by a return of apparel manufacturing to the UK, it seems reshoring is far from a done deal.

In the wake of the reports, the UK's textile and garment reshoring efforts have also been criticised in a new report that found "widespread and severe violations of work and employment laws", at its factories.

Pakistan also has ambitious plans to grow its textile and garment sector. The country's Textile Policy aims to double exports to US$26bn in the next five years as it seeks to reap full benefits of the EU GSP+ scheme.

The ambitious plans for the period from 2014-19 will see authorities spend PKR65bn (US$650m) on subsidies, and developing the infrastructure to attract investments of US$5bn in the sector, according to Abbas Khan Afridi, federal minister for the textile industry.

just-style recentlyspoke to Ian Spaulding, senior advisor to the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, about what still remains to be done in the country's garment and textile sector. From providing the first low-cost loans for factory remediation efforts, to setting up worker helplines and training 1.1m people on fire safety, the Alliance is making "good progress" on its goals, he says. But this is just the beginning.

New eco-friendly fibre and fabric concepts that not only offer more sustainable choices for sportswear and outdoor apparel, but in many cases give improved functionality too, were on show at this month's ISPO Münich trade fair. The natural performance of wool, plant-based laminates, ultra lightweight insulation and advanced temperature regulation were among the highlights.

An annual "power list" ranking of the ten largest footwear manufacturing countries supplying the US market shows that production shifts continued in 2014 - including triple-digit gains for Cambodia.

While China remains the largest supplier, shipping 79% of all shoes imported into the US last year, its market share continues to fall, according to the list compiled by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association of America (FDRA). Vietnam, meanwhile, put in "another impressive year of growth," as anticipation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal takes hold.

VF Corp has said that reducing costs in its global supply chain has given it a competitive advantage as it continues to look for gross margin expansion in 2015.

While he company booked fourth-quarter earnings that missed analyst expectations, sales rose 9% and gross margin improved by 80 basis points to a record 49% - driven primarily by the continuing shift of its revenue mix toward higher margin businesses.

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