Blog: Leonie BarrieM&S clothing efforts begin to bear fruit

Leonie Barrie | 12 November 2012

Results posted last week by retailer Marks & Spencer were something of a mixed bag. While first-half pre-tax profit fell nearly 10% on declining general merchandise sales, an uplift in second quarter performance suggests efforts to improve its clothing offer are beginning to bear fruit.

As part of plans to increase speed to market after facing a series of replenishment issues earlier this year, the UK's largest clothing retailer is seeing its clothing supply base shift away from the Far East. The company is increasing the amount of clothing it sources from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to help mitigate higher wage and input costs in China and improve turnaround times.

More than 120 international apparel brands and retailers have pledged to ban the use of cotton from Uzbekistan as part of efforts to stop the country using forced and child labor to harvest its cotton crop. Zara, JC Penney, American Eagle and Fruit of the Loom are the most recent companies to join the growing list of signatories.

An inter-governmental group has also warned that the general outlook for cotton supply and demand looks "bleak" - but should mean prices are likely to continue to remain low in the season ahead. The latest update from the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) says global stocks will hit a record 16.4m tons in the current marketing year.

But research also shows that despite continuing double-digit growth in the retail market for organic cotton last year, there has been a massive 37% drop in production - even though retailers say they intend to expand their use of the fibre. The findings are included in the sixth annual Organic Cotton Market Report from Textile Exchange.          

The world market for jeanswear is forecast to grow by US$10bn in the next six years, fuelled by growing demand in emerging markets and resurgent western economies, according to new research published by just-style. The 'Global Market Review of Denim and Jeanswear - Forecasts to 2018' suggests that the most dynamic growth will come from markets in Asia and Latin America.

And opportunities to rebuild the UK textile and clothing industry continue to be debated. A recent event in London looked at how investment in skills and infrastructure is necessary to grow the sector, and set out the economic case for encouraging more retailers to source locally.


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