Blog: Leonie BarrieApparel imports into the US rose in June

Leonie Barrie | 14 August 2017

Apparel imports into the US rose in June as merchants stocked up for summer and prepared for the back-to-school season, climbing on the previous month but down on the year before. Among the main suppliers, imports from Vietnam continued to surge, but Bangladesh swung back into negative territory.

In a move that will be welcomed by the many textile and apparel firms investing in and sourcing from Ethiopia, the country’s government has just lifted a 10-month-long state of emergency. Imposed last October, there were concerns it would damage Ethiopia's duty-free status on exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

An influx of migrants into the European Union has raised the risk of modern slavery across 20 EU member states, according to a new global ranking, which also suggests forced labour violations remain high in Asia's top sourcing locations.

And a pilot project to trace the garment and cotton supply chains of seven Dutch brands sourcing from Turkey has been unable to guarantee their products are free from child labour. The companies agreed to take part in the initiative to try to establish where issues existed, and the research has helped pinpoint the exact tier where child labour may be happening.

The Foreign Trade Association has warned Bangladesh its members could stop sourcing from the country if it refuses to play ball on tackling outstanding labour rights issues. In a letter to the prime minister of Bangladesh, the group outlined the "considerable volumes" FTA member companies are buying from Bangladeshi producers.

Indeed, across the fashion industry, there is clear appetite for improved sustainability and positive change. The good news is that innovation-led change is perfectly achievable. As a start, there are three broad ambitions the industry could strive for in the years to come.

Regular communication, ensuring buyers are fully trained, and that both sides are up-to-date with the latest trends are all important ingredients for a good working relationship between a supplier and a retailer.

Workers in China's garment and textile industry are increasingly attaching more value to "soft factors" such as skills training, job security, equitable treatment and trade unions than financial benefit when seeking a new job, a study has found.

Primark has launched its first line of clothing made using 100% sustainable cotton from its programme in India – marking a first for the British value clothing retailer in being able to track its cotton through the supply chain from farm to store.

Business risk and sustainability solutions consultancy Elevate has acquired mobile worker survey platform Laborlink, and plans to incorporate it in all of its audits.

Haiti is in the spotlight once again after workers at two garment factories in the country's free trade export zones this week denounced alleged violations of ILO conventions related to pay and working conditions.

Marks & Spencer, Next, and Men's Warehouse UK, are among a raft of brands that have joined a call to help end the exploitation of Madagascan dockworkers.

Meanwhile, Gildan Activewear sees a bright future for its newly acquired and just relaunched American Apparel brand – but is giving shoppers the option of deciding whether to pay more to buy products that have been made in the USA.

And Ralph Lauren has become the latest US brand to announce it is doubling-down on its digital offering and scaling back its retail presence as it discovers millennial consumers are "not interested in going into brick and mortar" stores.

In other news, the first round of NAFTA renegotiation talks is due to get underway later this week; Wrangler has become the first apparel company to join a sustainable agriculture alliance; and a new interactive factory wage map has been launched to help firms track Chinese wage rates by city and province in real time.

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