Blog: Michelle RussellWill Brexit benefit Britain's garment industry?

Michelle Russell | 14 March 2016

A referendum on Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union will take place on 23 June. Opinion polls in early March showed voters split about 50/50, with around one-third still unsure.

So far in the campaigns to remain in or out, neither side has been straightforward about the effects of leaving – known as "Brexit" – or staying. We take a closer look at how arguments from Brexit supporters are affecting Britain's apparel industry.

On the other side of the Atlantic, apparel imports into the US offered surprising results in January, with five of the top-ten supplier countries posting declines. Vietnam and Bangladesh, however, both led with double-digit gains, while China's growth continued to accelerate.

For apparel retailers in the US, February proved to be a mixed month as market volatility spooked investors and consumers, while low gas prices, positive housing data and upbeat labour market indicators suggested consumers had the means to spend.

And as fourth-quarter filings from US apparel brands and retailers continue to come in, our roundup includes updates from Dollar General, Zumiez, Stein Mart and Urban Outfitters.

The impending third-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse has served as a reminder that major safety concerns still exist for workers in the global apparel industry. However, a proliferation of initiatives is underway to drive change, including Fair Trade USA – whose apparel programme grew 358% in 2014.

With sustainability in mind, value fashion chain Primark has extended its sustainable cotton programme for women in northern India for a further six years. Its goal is to introduce sustainable farming methods to more women and help increase their incomes.

And a report published by WRAP (the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme) last week showed that the market for recovered textiles is cooling off, which could lead to more clothing going to landfill. The trend highlights the need for more sustainable end markets, including market development for recycling grades and closed loop fibre-to-fibre recycling.

And in other news, Adidas is to open 3,000 new stores in China by 2020; Hugo Boss is to close around 20 stores in China and tackle heavy discounting in the US; and the World Bank has been urged to suspend payments to the Uzbekistan government over its continuing use of forced labour in the cotton sector.

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