Can fashion sourcing from the UK become a reality?
Written by the Retail Team at Newgate Communications
The rise of low-cost manufacturing in Asia, combined with the ever growing consumer demand for cheaper clothes, has had a huge impact on the UK textile industry over the last decades. 30 years ago, the sector employed over 800,000 staff in the UK; today this has now fallen to around 100,000
The good news is that we are seeing a growing number of retailers keen to increase supply capacity in the UK. There have been a number of initiatives across the retail sector such as M&S’ a ‘Best of British’ clothes range, or ASOS “The Stitching Academy”, which show commitment to developing the UK textile manufacturing industry. But surely retailers, the industry and the Government could do more to support the positive impact local sourcing can have, for both business and the economy. What is needed is for more retailers to commit to this initiative to really drive investment in the UK textile manufacturing industry.
A perfect example of a retailer showing support for the repatriation of textile manufacturing is N Brown Group plc, a leading internet and catalogue home shopping company based in Greater Manchester, which led a private sector bid for the fourth round of the RGF (Regional Growth Fund) in 2013. Launched in 2010, the RGF stimulates enterprise across the country by providing grants to projects and programmes with significant potential for economic growth, leveraging private sector investment and creating or safeguarding jobs. N Brown’s bid, the first ever textile grant growth programme in UK history, was supported by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), Manchester Growth Company, M&S, ASOS, Roland Mouret and other world class manufacturers. It was launched on behalf of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire councils, to drive investment into the textile manufacturing supply chain. The National N Brown Textiles Growth Programme was born in 2013 and secured £12.8 million of funding. To date the Programme has invested £9 million pounds in grants to 94 companies thereby leveraging an additional £30 million of private sector investment, creating 1,600 jobs and 115 apprenticeship positions in North England.
N Brown Group CEO, Angela Spindler has stated that whilst they are delighted by the job creation in the region , but more needs to be done to drive textile manufacturing in the UK. On the back of the success of the programme, it was awarded a further £19.5 million by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Thursday 12th February 2015 in the sixth round of the Regional Growth Fund. The National N Brown Textiles Growth Programme plans to continue investments in textiles manufacturing and expand its funding to East Midlands manufacturers.
A report, published by the Alliance Project (full report can be downloaded here) and launched in parliament on Monday 9th February 2015, said the textile industry contributed £9 billion to the economy. Clothing exports doubled in the last decade to 2013 to £5.5 billion, with 5,000 jobs created in that year alone. The UK is the 15th largest textiles manufacturer in the world. . But the Alliance report warns that a shortage of skilled staff and insufficient funding for investment could slow growth and that is why retailers and manufacturers must call for further support from the Government.
If all goes to plan, the report suggests that Britain’s textiles industry is forecast to create 20,000 jobs in the next five years as a result of investments in the country.. Not only can UK manufacturers become highly skilled but working with companies on shore could have significant advantages in terms of delivery times, flexibility and quality control for a lot of retailers. With the industry committed to increase sourcing from the UK, and for it to become a reality, it is only by working together that we can have a real economic impact.
So for all stakeholders concerned, this is a positive development for the retail industry, the textile supply chain, Government policy, jobs and the economy overall. It is now time to make more noise about its success and its potential.