Blog: Leonie BarrieUS sourcing patterns taking shape

Leonie Barrie | 11 August 2014

Half-way through the year and US apparel import data is taking shape to give a broader view of the sourcing patterns so far.

Not surprisingly, supply options in the first six months of 2014 point to China and Vietnam as the ongoing winners, while shipments from Bangladesh and Cambodia continue to drop.

But perhaps more unexpected is evidence that average unit costs from China have fallen below those of Bangladesh, putting paid to fears that the country is losing its competitiveness. Higher worker wages continue to be offset by training, investment in cutting edge capital equipment - and the resulting productivity gains.

Unrest in Bangladesh has certainly contributed to the country's falling shipments to the US, and fears of a nationwide strike erupted last week as around 1,600 garment workers protested over unpaid salaries and bonuses. However, the likelihood of the strife spreading appeared to subside after some payments were made.

Describing India's new Vision for its textile and apparel sector as one of the "least-believable ambitious garment plans ever," Mike Flanagan suggests that instead of creating excitement by producing stretching targets, this one is set to demotivate from the outset.

Sustainability in the global textile and clothing industry is also continuing to mature. In this month's management briefing, just-style looks at ongoing developments including sustainability initiatives taking place in Asia, progress on closed loop supply chains, and the groundswell in green branding.

Executives from fashion brands and manufacturers also discussed ways of integrating sustainability into the heart of their businesses at the annual Source Summit in London. The message? It's not just about doing things better - it's about doing better things.

But for brands and retailers seeking to use more organic cotton in their ranges over the next few years, a potential supply crisis is looming. New figures show a 21% decline in organic cotton production last year, just as more and more companies commit to using the raw material.

As well as adding an additional textile plant at its Rio Nance complex in Honduras to support strong demand, apparel maker Gildan Activewear is streamlining its manufacturing and adding more complexity to its products in the process.

And aggressive promotions by US apparel retailers in August provided consumers with incentives to shop - leading to better-than-expected comparable store sales growth for the month. The focus is now turning to the upcoming back-to-school season.

But while retailers once invested in e-commerce as an extension of their physical stores, a rise in the number of consumers shopping online means they are now seeking a sustainable balance between the two - in addition to adapting their supply chains in order not to lose out.

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