Blog: Michelle RussellIndustry weathering the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic

Michelle Russell | 15 June 2020

Trust, people and partnerships – key tenets underpinning fashion supplier and sourcing powerhouse PDS Group – have been tested to the limit during the coronavirus pandemic. But they've also stood the business in good stead, helping to not only weather the storm but reposition it to emerge even stronger from the crisis.

As an industry we keep repeating ourselves: making the same mistakes over and over again. Twenty-five years ago, the pain was felt in America. Today it's suffered in Bangladesh. We must acknowledge that it's time for a change. The old model has overstayed its welcome and outlived its usefulness. It should be scrapped for something better.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh worker safety initiative Nirapon is restructuring, which will see it shift to operating from North America. Founded in 2019 with the aim of building upon the work of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the organisation says it will continue to focus on safety "while shifting to a more streamlined organisational structure based in North America".

A women's rights group has become the latest to criticise some of India's states for suspending or amending existing labour laws, which it says will contribute further to informalisation of the workforce and compromise working conditions. The changes have been made to try to curb the impact of the Covid-19 mandated lockdown, and affect a number of industries, including textiles.

Africa's policymakers are being urged to support preferred cotton at a time when the adoption of the genetically modified form is on the rise, with experts saying if this continues at scale, it may pose a threat to the future of the cotton industry.

Textile and apparel industry leaders, meanwhile, are playing down concerns that US trade with Hong Kong could be affected by a policy change threatened by President Trump. 

As the global garment industry continued to collapse under the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic throughout April, US apparel imports tumbled by more than a quarter on the previous month – with Central American suppliers Honduras and El Salvador recording the sharpest declines in shipments at more than 90% each. The figures for April also show a 40.53% drop in volume against the same month last year and a 45% drop in value terms year-on-year to US$3.41bn.

The US fashion industry, like the lobster industry, resides on the edge of a very dangerous cliff right now – each group is looking to secure financing and locate markets wherever they can be found. The only difference is that we haven't been given a "Fashion King".

The UK's second month under lockdown saw online retail sales swell to a 12-year high in May but clothing sales continued to feel the pressure of weak demand, with both women's and menswear hit. However, a new survey suggests just over half of UK consumers are ready to visit non-essential stores once lockdown restrictions are lifted – with clothing top of their shopping lists.

The retail sector is continuing to suffer under the weight of the pandemic as more businesses fall into administration. Quiz is the latest, and is set to appoint administrators to its UK and Republic of Ireland subsidiary, while Tailored Brands has said it may need to seek bankruptcy protection or discontinue operations if its business continues to be impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, and Gap Inc is to wind down its performance menswear brand Hill City.

In more positive news, private equity firm Sycamore Partners is reportedly in talks to acquire department store JCPenney, in a move that would pull the firm out of bankruptcy. While Monsoon Accessorize has been acquired out of administration by its owner Peter Simon.

In other news, Sourcemap has rolled out a new responsible leather platform, Vietnam has approved the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), clearing the path for adoption, and Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) has launched a Covid-19 worker safety hotline for workers.

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