Blog: Leonie BarrieWeather warms March retail sales

Leonie Barrie | 10 April 2012

A winning combination of warmer weather, an earlier Easter, new spring fashions and an improving economy helped a number of US apparel retailers to higher same-store sales for March. Data released last week showed Target, Macy's, Limited Brands and Gap all managed to book strong gains during the month.

Meanwhile, US department store operator JCPenney Company is axing around 10% of the staff at its corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas as part of an ongoing transformation of its business under new CEO Ron Johnson. The retailer said it expects to achieve around $200m in savings at its headquarters, where 600 jobs will go. It is also closing its customer call centre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

And US retail giant Wal-Mart is hoping a new five-year initiative to empower 60,000 women working at its supplier factories in India, Bangladesh, China and Central America will also lead to higher quality products and lower prices. The Women in Factories programme will be rolled out to 150 factories and will teach "critical life skills" such as hygiene, health and safety.

An inter-governmental group has warned that efforts by the Chinese government to build the country's cotton stockpiles have led to "significant uncertainty" that could weigh on the global cotton market for years. The International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC) estimates China's cotton imports will be 4.2m tons during the season that ends on 31 July, a rise of 61% on the previous year.

China also comes in for criticism in an annual report from the US Trade Representative's office - and along with India, Argentina and Brazil is among countries listed as obstructing US apparel and textile exports around the world. The 2012 National Trade Estimate Report sets out the major foreign barriers faced by US companies.

And, with increasing numbers of apparel and footwear brands, retailers and manufacturers weighed down by so-called "audit fatigue", steps are being taken to work towards a common platform that will enable firms to share data and reduce the number of audits carried out across the supply chain. The Global Apparel, Footwear and Textile Initiative (GAFTI) brings together retailers, brands, mills and factories to try to reduce this compliance complexity.


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