Blog: Leonie BarrieThe biggest threats to brand reputation

Leonie Barrie | 23 February 2016

Modern slavery, a lack of information on labour practices deep within global supply chains, and inadequate oversight of suppliers are among the biggest threats to brand reputation in 2016, a new report revealed last week. It also highlights the unethical recruitment of migrants as one of the most pressing challenges facing companies in the year ahead.

Separately, in a bid to eradicate forced labour from its supply chain, Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has placed a ban on sourcing cotton from Turkmenistan and Syria.

Backed by his belief that the current apparel sourcing model is broken, Gerhard Flatz, managing director at high end performance wear specialist KTC, is charting a new course for the company. In an interview with just-style he explains how he is trying to change the perception of 'Made in China' by building on the firm's ethical credentials, its skilled workmanship, and repositioning it as a key ingredient of a high quality garment.

The prospects also look bright for Haiti's apparel industry in 2016 after a number of important milestones were reached last year. In particular, the country is expecting to continue to see an influx of foreign companies that will add at least 6,000 jobs and a very good chance to cross the billion-dollar export mark in 2016.

Special trade access to developed countries is always a boon to emerging market suppliers. And the European Union's GSP+ system is especially sought after and – according to a recent European Commission report – widely utilised.

But just how many factories are there in the Bangladesh garment industry and the size of the workforce? The answer, it seems, is that nobody knows for sure – and a row has now broken out between two groups of academics over their analysis.

Why this matters is that more than $280m has been committed to improving the safety of Bangladesh's garment sector, and this work will be impossible to complete if factories and workers continue to remain unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, UK retail group Marks & Spencer needs to transform its selling space, including a review of its store portfolio and many sub-brands, if it is to improve margins and earnings in its general merchandise division.

US department store retailer JC Penney is to split Ken Mangone's role as executive vice president of product development, design and sourcing, after announcing his retirement.

US women's wear retailer Bebe Stores is cutting 14.6% of its total workforce, including design, merchandising and production positions, as part of a restructure that will see former CEO Manny Mashouf return to the company.

And the "seemingly abrupt" departure of Sharen Jester Turney, the CEO of Victoria's Secret, is unlikely to be a reflection on the fundamentals of the business, one analyst has said, after she announced her decision to retire.

In other news, unseasonably warm temperatures have cooled sales at VF Corp; Adidas Group is ramping up its focus on the female athletic market with a number of new appointments; and C&A is to implement RFID across its 164 stores in France as it builds its omnichannel strategy.

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