Blog: Michelle RussellNew fashion retail landscape emerging

Michelle Russell | 10 August 2020

The new fashion retail landscape emerging in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is already leading to dramatic and permanent changes in the way brands and fashion retailers plan and work. There are some practical steps that surviving businesses should consider as online becomes the dominant way of doing business.

The economic and personal impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic, and the protectionist trade policy agenda in the US, are the biggest concerns facing today's US fashion industry executives. Unsurprisingly, they are contributing to a more conservative outlook for the future.

The bankruptcies are continuing to stack up, with Chico’s CanadaTailored Brands, and fashion rental subscription service Le Tote and its department store chain Lord & Taylor, all filing for Chapter 11 protection. Designer Brands Inc, formerly known as DSW, has also revealed plans to cut 1,000 positions including 380 at its corporate offices.

Top executives believe US textiles and apparel sales could shrink by more than 50% this year due to the coronavirus, but it seems fabric makers are set to fare better than retailers amid a booming personal protective equipment (PPE) shift.

In June, US apparel imports surged on the month prior, and all ten of the major supplier nations reported month-on-month shipment volume increases. But the year-on-year figures told a very different tale – shipment volumes slid as Central America and India bore the brunt of Covid-19 continuing to wreak havoc on supply chains.

Despite the upheaval of the global coronavirus crisis, the future looks bright for Turkish textile and garment mega-producer Yesim Tekstil with European brands increasingly seeking vertically integrated suppliers, sustainability and options to near-shore production.

Meanwhile, US companies have been banned from trading or engaging with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corporation (XPCC) – a government entity that has interests in cotton farming and sales – after the organisation was placed on a Specially Designated Nationals List.

A number of factories producing garments for several major apparel brands have been accused of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to sack workers affiliated to unions. The 'Union busting & unfair dismissals: Garment workers during Covid-19 ' report from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) says more than 4,870 unionised garment workers have been targeted for dismissal by nine factories supplying for major fashion brands. The factories span India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar.

A digital mapping technology that tracks the development of readymade garment factories in Bangladesh has revealed 9% of facilities surveyed have permanently closed following the Covid-19 pandemic. The Mapped in Bangladesh (MIB) project began tracking the impact of the coronavirus on factories across the country earlier this year with Phase Two reporting beginning on 20 July.

And brands stocked by Asos with a UK manufacturing presence have been asked by the online fashion retailer to make four new ethical manufacturing commitments as a condition to their products being sold on the company's website. While Inditex, owner of the Zara brand, has joined hands with the IndustriAll Global Union in a commitment to support the economic and social recovery of the global garment industry from the Covid-19 crisis.

In other news, John Lewis has set out a new framework for its UK suppliers; Lever Style Corp is to acquire certain assets of Hong Kong knitwear manufacturer Vista Apparels; and Reebok’s new digital platform is putting consumers in control of production.

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