Blog: Leonie BarrieUS apparel imports offer little holiday cheer in October

Leonie Barrie | 12 December 2016

Despite expectations for a rise in imports as retailers gear up for the holiday shopping season, the volume of apparel shipments into the US continued to slide in October.

All but two of the top ten supplier countries posted declines, with Bangladesh booking the largest drop as its imports fell by nearly one-quarter on last year. China and Vietnam were the only countries to see a rise in shipments.

Bangladesh has been battling ongoing factory safety concerns and the impact of two fatal terrorist attacks in Dhaka earlier this year, but new research also suggests child labour remains rife in the country’s slum settlements. The ready-made garment sector is said to account for two-thirds of female child labour, leading to fears over the potential link with garment exports for top global brands in Europe, the US and elsewhere.

But Adidas, Gap, H&M and Lululemon have topped a benchmarking study looking at action taken by companies to combat forced labour and human trafficking in their supply chains – although more still needs to be done, including rolling out programmes to lower tiers across apparel supply chains.

The annual Integral Conversation conference organised by Hong Kong-based textile and apparel giant Esquel Group this year heard how brands such as Patagonia are making sustainability more than a slogan.

And while there is no single, simple solution to help garment brands and retailers progress from paying minimum wages to living wages to workers in their supply chains, feedback from those companies who have already made the move offers practical advice for those wishing to start.

But Myanmar's garment industry has a long way to go before it is sustainable, a new report has found, with workers still deprived of internationally recognised human and labour rights.

Meanwhile, a group of ethical fashion producers and retailers has called on the UK government to maintain duty-free access for imports from sub-Saharan Africa when negotiating new trade agreements with the region following the UK's eventual departure from the European Union.

US president-elect Trump's stated policies on international trade worry a lot of people, but the explanations given by his new business-friendly team worry Mike Flanagan a lot more. Here he explains why Trumponomics is not only bad for US apparel – but a blow for Brexiteers too.

Not surprisingly, confidence in the global apparel industry remains at a low level following the UK's decision to leave the European Union (EU), the latest survey from just-style shows – with currency, price and trade concerns the biggest challenges facing industry.

India's domestic clothing industry has suffered a drastic slump in demand and production following the central government's sudden decision last month to withdraw high denomination currency notes accounting for around 86% of the total cash in the economy.

And while the next few years may be challenging for the outdoor performance apparel industry, increased participation in outdoor experiences is expected to lead to retail sales growth of over 20% by 2020, according to a new report.

International cotton prices have remained elevated in the first four months of the season due to delays in the 2016/17 crop reaching the international market.

And Taiwanese textile maker Everest Textiles is investing $18.5m to open its first US production facility – and its first outside Asia – making performance sportswear fabrics.

In other news, Amazon's apparel expansion has seen the launch of a new private label menswear brand; Aidan O'Meara will lead VF International following the retirement of Karl Heinz Salzburger at the end of next year; and demonstrators in Lesotho have urged an end political instability that threatens the nation's duty-free access to the US.

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