Blog: Beth WrightCovid-19 leads to countrywide lockdowns

Beth Wright | 30 March 2020

The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos throughout the global apparel industry, with countrywide lockdowns and the switch of production to personal protective equipment (PPE) all dominating our Covid-19 coverage last week.  

Bangladesh has ordered thousands of clothing factories to continue production throughout a 10-day countrywide lockdown in force since last Thursday (26 March) aimed at slowing the spread of new coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

The country's apparel industry is in gridlock, with millions of jobs at risk as orders are frozen or cancelled amid the pandemic. Brands do not want to lose their supply chains and factories do not want to lay off workers – but without short-term financial support, that is likely to be the next step.

The government of neighbouring Myanmar has unveiled an initial US$70m stimulus package to cushion the blow of the outbreak on the country's economy, but sources suggest it might not be enough to save "tens of thousands" of garment workers who are likely to find themselves out of a job in the near future.

While the three-week lockdown ordered by the Indian government from last Wednesday (25 March) to contain the spread of the virus will have a limited impact on apparel exporters because production is already largely halted by a wave of order cancellations.

Garment workers in global supply chains are especially exposed to risks linked to the global Covid-19 crisis, but how are the governments in key production countries in Asia responding?

Meanwhile, 80,000 clothing and textile workers in South Africa are set to receive full pay for the next six weeks as part of a landmark package agreed as the country goes into lockdown to try to limit the spread.

Mexican and Central American garment factories are shutting down as regional governments respond to the outbreak and US demand slumps as retailers face widespread shutdowns to contain the global health emergency.

Elsewhere, the pandemic is encouraging textile trade shows to consider virtual and other digital alternatives as it forces the cancellation of myriad events around the world.

Retailers H&M, Canada Goose, Nike Inc and luxury firms including Kering are among those mobilising their production facilities and supply chains to help address the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks and hospital gowns.

Also playing its part is Stretchline. Best-known as one of the world's leading suppliers of narrow fabrics and elastics for end-uses including lingerie, intimate apparel, sports and activewear, the company is switching its production to elastics that can be used in medical face masks.

While apparel software maker Gerber Technology has launched a dedicated task force to help manufacturers convert their production to produce PPE.

Clothing and footwear is the UK retail sector likely to be worst hit by Covid-19 this year, with spending expected to decline by one-fifth, according to preliminary forecasts.

Value fashion retailer Primark has cancelled all orders with its suppliers and closed all of its stores – including the 189 it operates in the UK – as countries around the world go into lockdown.

In the US, sportswear giant Nike Inc says it has a "playbook" to tackle the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including leveraging its diverse sourcing base and digital capabilities to manage the business with flexibility, and shifting inventory to serve consumer digital demand.

The coronavirus outbreak is incredibly fast-moving, uncertain and complex – with potentially profound and long-term impacts on a global, cross-industry scale. A new, free Covid-19 Executive Briefing report can help you navigate the challenges.

In other news, Adidas has developed what it claims is the most advanced system of responsive apparel shielding athletes from the elements; and the owner of the Oasis and Warehouse fashion group says it has received interest from a potential buyer that could result in a sale of the brands.

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