HOW IS CORONAVIRUS AFFECTING UK CLOTHING MANUFACTURERS?
Coronavirus has hit everyone hard, but manufacturers are struggling with the best of them. As lockdown forbade unnecessary human contact, many UK clothing manufacturers have closed their doors. Warehouses are full to the brim with no channels to sell through. Ensuring the safety of employees has led to stay-at-home measures, which have pushed employees in precarious situations into a situation even more uncertain. Manufacturers have closed all over, both temporarily and permanently, preventing samples from being made for future collections and thus, orders from coming through. There is a crisis of faith between customer and client, and client and manufacturer. Covid-19 is unravelling the manufacturing industry at the seams.
Preliminary forecasts predicted that the clothing and footwear industry were to be hit the hardest by the pandemic. In a letter, NGOs have called for fashion retailers to clarify on public record if they will be honouring their contracts “so that both suppliers and workers can be confident that they will be paid their due”. Clients like New Look and Asda have suspended supplier payments, leaving many garments already made to gather dust. The lack of support within the supply chain has halted plans for the rest of the year as companies struggle to make up for lost time and lost revenue.
But it’s not just the cancellations of orders which are hitting manufacturers; these companies are being hit from both sides. A disruption to the supply of the raw materials, much of which comes from China, has meant that UK companies have no orders to work to and no materials to work from. In 2018, China processed 54.6 million tons of fibres, about half the world’s total, a step in the production chain often forgotten.
Sustainable clothing is another casualty of the coronavirus, as ethical shopping takes a backseat to the crisis of a lack of shopping. GlobaData estimates the additional three weeks of lockdown will lose the UK fashion industry £1.4billion. Many SMEs championing sustainable wear will be shut down or scaled back following this crisis.
Some companies have rose the occasion and sought to provide PPE, although it has been widely reported that the Government has been slow in enlisting British textile manufacturers in this domain. With little response from the authorities in whether this a route to be pursued, all UK manufacturers can do is wait, hoping to ride the storm and that clients will remember to look back to their doorstep when better days come.
Some are luckier; with many factory closures in Asia, there has been an upturn in the number of business enquiries for British manufacturing companies, with one report finding 50% of Manufacturing companies have experienced this (Make it British Manufacturing Coronavirus Survey). However, the dual edge of coronavirus is that these companies can expect for this boost in business to be short-lived.