Will Coronavirus Change the Way Countries Source Apparel? In the U.K., Domestic Textiles See Increased Demand
The coronavirus pandemic has upended markets all across the world, and has forced countries to make changes to the way they do business and how they source products.
In the U.K., domestic textile businesses have seen an uptick in business as demand still exists for textile products, but companies are wary (or unable) to get products from places like China where they previously sourced their goods.
“We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries solely due to the fact that retailers and brands need to be spreading their risk and placing orders locally, and making sure the shops aren’t empty,” Bhavik Master, of Leicester, U.K.-based Paul James Knitwear, told Marketplace.
“[Customers] are concerned about getting stuff from China,” Alkesh Kapadia of Barcode Design told Marketplace.
The reason for the boost in domestic manufacturing is obviously not ideal, and in the long term it might not be sustainable. But, if companies create new relationships with new customers, they could hold onto them once the global crisis subsides.
Going forward, it could also shift mindsets and inform people that more processes can be completed completely domestically without much sticker shock.
Kate Hills of manufacturing advocacy group Make It British told Marketplace that U.K. clothing brands are looking more into sourcing fabrics domestically “so that in the future the whole garment can be made in the U.K.”
In a country still fresh off of its instant divorce from the European Union, there’s obviously nationalistic undertones and U.K. “independence” rhetoric thrown around with this issue. But there’s the underlying message that is undeniable—right now it’s probably easier to source domestically. And you can do that full-time even when you have other options.
“I think the coronavirus is going to change the clothing industry’s mindset,” she said. “The industry will ask, ‘Do you want all your products made somewhere like China, or should you spread your risk and start making at least a percentage of your products much closer to homer, in the U.K.?’”
In the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a drop in cargo at otherwise bustling ports such as Oakland and Long Beach. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Port of Oakland reported a 7.4 percent drop in loaded containers last month, compared to the same month in 2019.
It’s important to remember the CDC’s advice here regarding shipments from China.
This coronavirus is thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.
So, while it’s good for countries to boost their textile economies, it’s not good when it comes at the expense of misinformation or spreading dangerous stigmas regarding overseas sourcing.