Blog: Leonie BarrieChina town

Leonie Barrie | 22 February 2008

Wigan yesterday came one step closer to being the site of Europe’s biggest textile and clothing park after signing a GBP125m deal to encourage “a large number” of Chinese companies to set up operations there.

Negotiations with the Chinese government have been two years in the making, so it could well be a while longer before the names of individual firms become known, or even what they will be making over here.

What is known is that the site, which covers an area of 2m square feet, will be used for textiles manufacturing, research and development, and production of UK branded products which will be distributed worldwide – although any more details are pretty sketchy.

It’s also a smart move as far as quotas are concerned. Quotas on China's exports of textiles and clothing to the EU expired at the end of 2007, but there are still concerns within the industry that these may well be replaced with a new raft of restrictions at some point in the not too distant future. So for Chinese firms, having a local production base will certainly help offset any new limits. 

And it will improve speed to market – the one thing that increasingly matters in today’s fashion environment but is difficult to achieve for Chinese-based manufacturers because of the distance from their customers.

The timing of the announcement also coincides with an article from Reuters suggesting that British designers are crimped by lack of factories. It points out that a decades-long decline in British manufacturing means upcoming young designers are at a disadvantage to French and Italian rivals because they no longer have factories on their doorstep to get their clothes made.

Chinese firms plan Europe's largest textile city


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