Blog: Beth WrightUK government urged to protect Leicester garment workers

Beth Wright | 20 July 2020

Campaigners in the UK are calling for the government to provide practical support to protect all workers in the Leicester garment industry, including the payment of unpaid wages and benefits.

The calls come as Quiz has launched an investigation into one of its Leicester-based suppliers, the second UK fast-fashion retailer to do so in under a week, after allegations of non-compliance with living wage requirements surfaced at its supplier factories.

Meanwhile, C&A has slammed allegations by worker rights campaigners that claim the firm "allowed violations of labour rights" at a garment production facility in Myanmar.

And US specialty apparel retailer Gap Inc says it will work collaboratively with its vendors to compensate them in full for finished goods and goods in production that were cancelled or subject to pack and hold.

More than half of sustainability leaders at apparel and textile brands have seen an uptick in consumer demand for environmentally sustainable practices and products since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many believing they may lose customers if they fail to meet commitments.

A new data-led sustainability programme for responsibly produced US cotton is now opening up its membership to brands and retailers so that cotton from its growers can begin to enter the supply chain.

Rather than redrawing global sourcing maps, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and deepened a number of pre-existing trends – including a diversification of supplier portfolios – new research suggests.

Fast fashion retailer Asos appears to be pulling through the crisis relatively unscathed as it booked higher sales in its third-quarter and offered an optimistic outlook for the full year. Analysts believe the group's flexible business model and a "robust" momentum in the business put Asos in a good position moving forward.

Elsewhere, Dutch clothing company G-Star Raw is restructuring in a move set to affect 10% of its global workforce as the impact of the pandemic continues to weigh on the business.

While in the US, PVH Corp is to slash its North American corporate workforce by about 12% and exit its outlet store Heritage Brands Retail business as the group looks to align its operations in the region with the evolving retail landscape.

And JCPenney is to axe about 1,000 jobs and close 152 stores as the retail giant proceeds with plans to emerge from both Chapter 11 and Covid-19 as a smaller, more financially flexible company.

Sales at US clothing retailers more than doubled in June from the month before as businesses continued to reopen following coronavirus-enforced lockdowns – although continued Covid-19 outbreaks remain a threat to recovery.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere at the moment. Much of this is focused around data analytics – crunching business numbers at ferocious speed and as frequently as possible. It is being discussed in terms of its impact on business, employment and human rights across all industries. But in the context of fashion brands and fashion retail, what has it to offer business decision-making?

Elsewhere, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has loaned US$96m to Honduran textiles and apparel manufacturer Grupo Elcatex to help it bolster production and exports.

And Brazilian textile major Santista Textil is set to launch a new fabric treatment that protects workwear, denim and other apparel from SARS-CoV-2, the strain that causes the novel coronavirus – and sees it as a potential game-changer for its business.

In other news, Japan's Fast Retailing Group has confirmed that its Uniqlo casual clothing chain, as well as its PLST and Comptoir des Cotonniers brands, are to phase out the use of alpaca wool in their products, and a Swedish startup has launched a new digital tool that enables brands and manufacturers to quickly calculate the carbon footprint of their products.

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