Blog: Leonie BarrieChallenges and opportunities in 2014?

Leonie Barrie | 21 January 2014

just-style's annual briefing on apparel industry issues to watch in the year ahead has gathered feedback from leading executives on the challenges and opportunities likely to emerge in 2014. Their insight provides a fascinating overview of the state of the sector today.

Responsible sourcing and the need for greater visibility across the supply chain, minimising risks, and social unrest and violence in supplier countries were singled out. And while there is likely to be a growing interest in onshoring or reshoring, China is still seen leading the pack when it comes to apparel sourcing.

Separately, David Birnbaum offers his take on the key apparel industry issues to watch in 2014 - from the rise of the billion dollar transnational factory giants to the bursting of the Bangladesh bubble and the decline of the retail store.

For trends in US apparel imports, new data shows November shipments fell by nearly 20% on the month before as retailers wound down their purchases of key holiday season merchandise. There was also the first drop in imports from Bangladesh since factory safety issues came to the fore in April. And Vietnam has achieved the biggest gains of the year to date.

Yet separate figures suggest Bangladesh's ready-made garment exports are continuing to soar, jumping nearly 20% in the six months from July to December.
However, the industry says it is counting the cost of three months of political turmoil, labour unrest and factory safety issues.

In other news from the country, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has finalised the fire, electrical, and building inspection standards against which all its member supplier factories will be assessed. Around 1,500 factories are due to be inspected by September 2014.

And for buyers seeking a new source of potentially low-cost apparel, Pakistan's accession to the European Union's GSP+ trade scheme offers new opportunities. A USAID programme is in place to help garment producers in the country to build business with brands and retailers in the EU - and allows buyers to eliminate some of the risks of forging ahead on their own.

And in retail news, struggling US department store chain JC Penney is to axe 2,000 jobs and close 33 underperforming stores, as part of ongoing efforts to turn around its business. While some analysts believe the store closures could prove positive in the long term, others think more may be necessary.

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