Blog: Michelle RussellTrump and Brexit generate more confusion

Michelle Russell | 20 March 2017

Over the past month, Donald Trump and his team failed to offer any clear plan to ensure Americans would "Buy American, Hire American" - while the British government's attempts to clarify the specifics of "Brexit means Brexit" left no-one better informed. Mike Flanagan has taken a closer look in his monthly Trade Tracker update.

Experts have highlighted concerns over the exploitation of Syrian refugees working in the Turkish textile industry and are urging the Turkish government and the clothing supply chain to work together to improve their plight.

And an increase in the traceability and transparency of the full supply chain is just one of the recommendations made to brands and retailers sourcing leather from India, in a new report that claims the rights of leather workers in the country are systematically violated. The 'Do leather workers matter?' research by the India Committee of Netherlands (ICN), found that around 2.5m workers often face unacceptable working conditions that violate their human rights and seriously affect their health.

Meanwhile, February proved to be a difficult month for the handful of US apparel retailers still reporting comparable sales figures, with all four recording a decline, and one turning in its worst monthly comp store sales drop in 19 years.

Indeed, the latest US Government figures show the country's economy saw its strong start to the year fade in February, with the country's retail sales posting the smallest gain in six months.

One company potentially feeling the effects is fashion retailer Guess. The company is to close 60 stores over the upcoming financial year and continue to implement supply chain initiatives to improve profits in the Americas. While sportswear giant Adidas, which has faced challenges in the North American market in recent years, is implementing a strategy to grow sales in the region. The company has upped its sales target for the region by almost half by 2020.

In the modern apparel industry, change is rapid. Consumer behaviours and perceptions are shifting. Cost pressures are intensifying. And while poor quality has long resulted in widespread markdowns and chargebacks, now it may result in permanently lost clients.

Driving the cost out of your returns process and rethinking whatever programme you have in place is a must in today's highly competitive retail landscape, and can mean the difference between winning and losing.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, has topped a new benchmark ranking that aims to incentivise companies in a race to the top for the moral and commercial advantages of a strong human rights record.

In other news, PVH Corp has acquired direct-to-consumer apparel retailer True&Co; the AAFA released the 18th edition of the Restricted Substances List (RSL); NSF International has partnered with Textile Exchange to merge their down standards; Gap Inc has named former Gymboree Corp CEO, Mark Breitbard, head of Banana Republic; and fourth-quarter filings from US apparel and footwear brands and retailers continued to roll in.

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