Blog: Beth WrightUS apparel imports continue upward trajectory

Beth Wright | 9 November 2020

The volume of US apparel imports continued to climb in September on the month prior as business picked up for retailers following the pandemic lockdown. Year-on-year was a different picture, however, with shipments continuing to fall. Indonesia and China recorded the largest declines.

Manufacturing activity in China surged to a near-decade high in October, however, as the country continued to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic – but overseas demand softened amid a resurgence of the coronavirus across a number of export markets.

Indeed, research shows the UK’s second lockdown, which began last week, could cost non-essential retail GBP6.8bn (US$8.8bn).

More than half of Bangladesh garment suppliers surveyed in a recent report had the majority of their orders cancelled during the pandemic, while 35% of fashion companies showed no evidence of making regular payments to their suppliers.

The UK and Germany have set up a landmark US$6.5m fund aimed at saving thousands of jobs in Ethiopia's textile and garment industry while helping to support the country's economic recovery from the crisis.

Elsewhere, with a possible resumption of talks on the EU-Thailand free trade agreement on the cards, the European Union (EU) is being urged to require labour reform as a precondition to negotiations.

The garment industry in the Philippines is preparing to petition the European Commission, asking it not to consider calls for the country to lose its duty-free access to EU markets – but to offer concessions instead.

The latest round-up of updates to key free trade agreements and trade preference programmes involving the United States, the European Union, and Japan covers developments in October 2020.

Meanwhile, an investigation into organic cotton fraud in India has revealed 20,000 metric tonnes of cotton were incorrectly certified as organic through a scam abusing the Indian government certification system.

Major apparel companies H&M Group, Nike Inc, and Boohoo Group have told UK politicians they do not have any supply chain links to the Xinjiang region of China, with Boohoo revealing plans to map all of its global tier-one and tier-two supply chains over the next year.

A new probe launched by the UK competition watchdog will investigate descriptions and labels used to promote products claiming to be 'eco-friendly', and whether they could mislead consumers in sectors including textiles and fashion.

And denim manufacturers must understand that no sustainability project can truly be deemed as such without a focus on transparency and traceability – with reliable open data key to facilitating change.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer has reported its first-ever loss as a publicly-listed company after coronavirus lockdowns led to a slump in clothing sales.

The John Lewis Partnership has revealed plans to slash up to 1,500 head office roles between now and next April as part of its bid to return to sustainable profits by 2025.

And supermarket retailer Sainsbury's has appointed a new clothing commercial director amid an 18.3% dive in year-on-year clothing sales and plans to axe about 3,500 jobs.

In other news, Primark has booked a 62% fall in annual profits on the back of lost sales from Covid-related store closures, and Mango is to eliminate 160m plastic bags per year in its supply chain.

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