Blog: Leonie BarrieChange is key to industry competitiveness

Leonie Barrie | 24 October 2016

Speakers at two recent events have emphasised the global apparel industry must adapt if it is to remain competitive – and relevant – in a rapidly changing environment

The single biggest issue C-level executives are facing today is speed to market, according to Ed Gribbin, president at size and fit specialist Alvanon. "Right now these companies are planning either spring 18 or autumn 18. But how do they know what we want two years from now?" he asks – setting out some strategies and tactics to make the process faster.

And a conference on 'European Textiles: Going Digital – Going High-Tech' heard how clothing manufacturing will be completely transformed by the internet and digital printing over the next five to ten years.

Proving the need for manufacturing innovation, sportswear firm Reebok has unveiled a new Liquid Factory it says could fundamentally change the process and speed of footwear creation by eliminating the need for moulds. Instead, it uses state-of-the-art software and robotics to draw high performance athletic shoes in three dimensions.

Issues including under-investment, frequent promotions, poor design and fit are all being blamed for the decision by US speciality clothing retailer Gap Inc to shutter all eight of its Banana Republic stores in the UK.

And investors also see intensifying competition in clothing as barriers to Marks & Spencer achieving earnings growth, with many concerned about the UK firm's "unappealing" product offering.

But the retailer has been named as the highest performing FTSE100 company for monitoring and reporting on modern slavery in its supply chain, in a report that also highlights a deficit in action by many UK-listed firms.

That said, a separate survey has found the UK's Modern Slavery Act has led to increased engagement from directors on issues of risk within supply chains, and a greater focus on policy development, risk assessment and monitoring of modern slavery.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh's National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) has kicked off a new campaign calling for higher wages for the country's garment workers. Campaigners are urging buyers to pay a "fair price" for garments sourced in the country.

Vietnam's National Salary Council may have agreed to increase the country-wide minimum wage next year by the smallest proportion in a decade, but the country's clothing manufacturers are still warning this will be a hike too far.

Sri Lankan apparel and fabrics conglomerate MAS Holdings has shared with just-style a number of recent steps that have been taken across the business as part of its growing commitment to sustainability.

And fashion retailer C&A Europe is to launch its first collection of down puffer jackets certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) – and pledged that all of the down and feathers in its products will be RDS-certified from autumn 2016 onwards.

In other news, US department store retailer Target Corp is teaming up with Victoria Beckham on a limited-edition line; UL has opened its first consumer product testing facility in Vietnam; and Bangladesh has overtaken China as the world's largest importer of cotton.

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