Blog: Leonie BarriePort problems play havoc with holiday imports

Leonie Barrie | 10 November 2014

US firms including apparel retailers and importers are urging the government to intervene in the ongoing dispute at US west coast ports, amid worsening delays on shipments of holiday merchandise and fears a total shutdown may be imminent.

Concerns have been voiced over the "rampant" and "untenable" congestion at Los Angeles and Long Beach. There are delays of two weeks or more to get product through the ports - and worries that the situation will impact incoming apparel and footwear shipments through the peak holiday season.

As well as bottlenecks at US entry ports, questions are being asked about the likely impact America's mid-term elections will have on reaching agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). US clothing industry leaders meeting in New York heard that the task of President Barack Obama in securing special rights to ratify a deal got harder.

October proved to be another mixed bag for US apparel retailers, according to the latest monthly sales results. While the majority reported gains in comparable store sales thanks to an improving economy and strong consumer demand, others were impacted by warmer weather.

At its first investor day for seven years, US department store retailer Kohl's Corp set out detailed plans for future growth. Building on the 'Greatness Agenda' announced earlier this year to give customers what they want, when and how they want it, analysts say the new initiatives are necessary and overdue.

In a reflection of how times have changed for UK retail giant Marks & Spencer, a 2.2% drop in first-half like-for-like clothing and footwear sales is seen as a sign that business is improving. M&S said women's wear was a bright spot and that it now has the right focus to move the division forward to higher growth.

Reports have suggested sportswear business Puma is up for sale, with three Paris traders said to be discussing a bid for Kering's 86% stake in the brand. And analysts believe US apparel and footwear giant VF Corp could be the most suitable buyer.

But Puma's third quarter results show positive momentum is underway, with sales up 6.4% to EUR843m (US$1bn) and footwear rising for the first time in seven quarters.

Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co is to provide low-cost loans to help its garment suppliers in developing countries to upgrade environmental, health, safety and labour standards - with better terms available to those who perform well on sustainability metrics.

But upmarket UK fashion retailer Whistles has been criticised after T-shirts bearing the slogan 'This is what a feminist looks like' were said to be made in "sweatshop" conditions in Mauritius.

And the Xinjiang regional government in China's northwest is pushing ahead with its planned US$3.2bn package of incentives to attract investment from textile and garment companies, just-style has learnt.

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