2016 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study Released

[Note: The 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study has been released]usfia 2016 cover_Page_1

The report can be downloaded from HERE

Key Findings of the study:

I. Business environment and outlook in the U.S. Fashion Industry

  • Overall, respondents remain optimistic about the five-year outlook for the U.S. fashion industry. “Market competition in the United States” is ranked the top business challenge this year, which, for the first time since 2014, exceeds the concerns about “increasing production or sourcing cost.”

II. Sourcing practices in the U.S. fashion industry

  • U.S. fashion companies are more actively seeking alternatives to “Made in China” in 2016, but China’s position as the No.1 sourcing destination seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Meanwhile, sourcing from Vietnam and Bangladesh may continue to grow over the next two years, but at a slower pace.
  • U.S. fashion companies continue to expand their global reach and maintain truly global supply chains. Respondents’ sourcing bases continue to expand, and more countries are considered potential sourcing destinations. However, some companies plan to consolidate their sourcing bases in the next two years to strengthen key supplier relationships and improve efficiency.
  • Today, ethical sourcing and sustainability are given more weight in U.S. fashion companies’ sourcing decisions. Respondents also see unmet compliance (factory, social and/or environmental) standards as the top supply chain risk.

III. Trade policy and the U.S. fashion industry

  • Overall, U.S. fashion companies are very excited about the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and they look forward to exploring the benefits after TPP’s implementation.
  • Thanks to the 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), U.S. fashion companies have shown more interest in sourcing from the region. In particular, most respondents see the “third-country fabric” provision a critical necessity for their company to source in the AGOA region.
  • Free trade agreements (FTAs) and trade preference programs remain underutilized in 2016 and several FTAs, including NAFTA and CAFTA-DR, are utilized even less than in previous years. U.S. fashion companies also call for further removal of trade barriers, including restrictive rules of origin and remaining high tariffs.

The benchmarking study was conducted between March 2016 and April 2016 based on a survey of 30 executives from leading U.S. fashion and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers. In terms of business size, 92 percent of respondents report having more than 500 employees in their companies, while 84 percent of respondents report having more than 1,000 employees, suggesting that the findings well reflect the views of the most influential players in the U.S. fashion industry.

For the benchmarking studies in 2014 and 2015, please visit: https://www.usfashionindustry.com/resources/industry-benchmarking-study

Sourcing Practices and Free Trade Agreements: Discussion Questions Proposed by FASH455

trans-pacific-partnership

Sourcing Practices

#1 Many US fashion companies choose to continue to diversify their sourcing base and they are actively seeking supplementary sourcing destinations. How to explain this phenomenon?

#2 U.S. apparel imports from Vietnam has been growing rapidly in recent years. Why do you think Vietnam has been able to expand as a garment exporter so quickly, outperforming most of its Asian competitors?

#3 Why would, after everything that happened at Rana Plaza, U.S. apparel companies still outsource to Bangladesh?

#4 Why would U.S. fashion companies want to become more diversified with the countries and factories that they are currently sourcing from? Is there still room for expansion for larger corporations who are already quite diverse with their sourcing base? Why or Why not?

#5 Why does the U.S. fashion industry still hold a positive view on the future of the industry despite the reported rising pressures of increasing production or sourcing costs? If China is a major factor causing the pressure of rising production and sourcing cost, why didn’t U.S. fashion companies just move out of China and switch to source from elsewhere?

Free Trade Agreement and Rules of Origin

#6 America most often applies the “yarn forward” standard for textiles and apparel. This states that the fibers can be produced in any country, but the spinning into yarn must take place in free trade area. Do you think this is the most beneficial method the U.S. can use? Would the United States be able to, in reality, employ a “fiber forward” standard instead and use the land in the U.S. Midwest to use domestically grown cotton or wool?

#7 Two debates over free trade agreements (FTAs) include: 1) FTAs act as a “stumbling block” to global trade liberalization, and 2) FTAs act as a “building block” to multilateral trade liberalization. What is your view, especially based on our analysis on the impact of NAFTA, CAFTA-DR and TPP?

#8 In class we discussed the special relationship between NAFTA & CAFTA-DR and the US  textile industry. Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) help the U.S. textile industry further expand export opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region? On the other hand, how will TPP potentially affect the U.S. textile and apparel trade with the NAFTA and CAFTA-DR regions?

#9 Do you think that Rules of Origin (RoO)  are having a negative impact on the larger picture of global trade? Since RoO intends to limit preferential treatments to FTA member countries only, is this simultaneously hindering outside countries from maximizing their opportunities with countries they are not in an FTA with?

#10 If the “Yarn-Forward” rule were to be implemented by the TPP, what types of effects do you think we would see on US apparel consumers? What benefits would the US textile manufacturers have if this were to happen and would the benefits outweigh the cost to US consumers and the limits that would be placed on countries such as Vietnam?

[Please feel free to join our online discussion. For the purpose of convenience, please mention the question # in your reply/comment.]


FIBERcast8: Two Years After the Rana Plaza, What Has Changed?


Panelists:

  • Zara Hayes, Director of Clothes to Die For
  • Sarah Hamilton, Producer of Clothes to Die For
  • Mara Burr, Senior vice president from the Albright Stonebridge Group
  • Avedis Seferian, President and CEO of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production(WRAP)
  • Marsha A. Dickson, Professor of Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, Irma Ayers Professor of Human Services, Co-Director of Sustainable Apparel Initiative, University of Delaware

Panel discussion questions:

  • What does the Rana Plaza tragedy bring out those aspects of the garment industry that many people don’t know?
  • What was it like going to Bangladesh and talking to survivors of the Rana Plaza? What are the behind the scene stories of filming the documentary Clothes To Die For?
  • What changes are happening in the Bangladesh garment industry after the Rana Plaza? Particularly, what people in Bangladesh are doing to prevent tragedies like the Rana Plaza from happening again?
  • The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (the Alliance) is a major effort from the U.S. business community in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy. What the Alliance has being doing, what major accomplishments have been achieved and what is the future work plan of the organization?
  • Has corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices in the Bangladesh garment industry critically improved after the Rana Plaza? Compared with other leading apparel manufacturers in the world such as China, Vietnam, India, Cambodia and Indonesia, is Bangladesh still significantly lagging behind in terms of corporate social responsibility practices?
  • How does the academia look at the Rana Plaza? Does the tragedy lead to some new research questions? What is the “academic” recipe for improving the CSR practices in the Bangladesh garment industry?
  • Will enhanced factory inspection increase production cost and make apparel “Made in Bangladesh” lose price competitiveness?
  • To prevent tragedies like the Rana Plaza from happening again, what each individual consumer can do or should do?
  • Sub-contracting is regarded as an indispensable part of today’s global apparel supply chain. But factories undertaking sub-contracting work operate in a “black box”—many of them are off the chart for inspection and audit. Any progress or new thinking on how to solve the sub-contracting issue in the garment industry?

Impact of TPP on U.S. Textile and Apparel Manufacturing: A Preliminary Estimation

Potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains a hot topic among the U.S. textile and apparel industry. A recent news report suggests that implementation of the agreement will negatively affect clothing manufacturers in LA, where most remaining U.S. apparel manufacturing capacity is located.

According to the news report, “small, independent apparel manufacturers (in LA) did not see big gains from TPP because they did not want to outsource their work, but it put them at a competitive disadvantage.” One local industry estimation quoted in the report claims that “Southern California’s apparel manufacturing will shrink an additional 20 percent if the TPP goes into effect.”

The report further says that “A key question for the apparel industry is whether the agreement includes a yarn-forward provision, which requires material to come from a TPP country in order to be duty-free.” However, the report does not explain why the “yarn-forward” rule could potentially benefit apparel manufacturing in the United States.

The followings are my personal preliminary estimation* of the potential impact of TPP on U.S. T&A manufacturing. Results show that, compared to the base year level in 2011:

  1. TPP overall will have a negative impact on U.S. domestic textile and apparel manufacturing. In all simulated scenarios, the annual manufacturing output in the United States will decline by $846 million–$3,780 million for textile and $1,154 million–$1,828 million for apparel than otherwise.
  2. The “yarn-forward” rule may not substantially benefit U.S. domestic textile and apparel manufacturing as some people had suggested, for two reasons: 1) results show that Vietnam is more likely to use Japanese textiles than U.S. textiles when yarn-forward rule is in place. 2) U.S. apparel imports from Vietnam directly compete with those imported from NAFTA and CAFTA regions, the largest export market for U.S.-made yarns and fabrics. When NAFTA and CAFTA’s market share in the U.S. apparel import market is taken away by Vietnam, U.S. textile exports to NAFTA and CAFTA will decline anyway, regardless of whether Vietnam uses U.S.-made textiles.
  3. Results suggest that compared with the “yarn-forward” rule, development of Vietnam’s local textile industry will have an even larger impact on the future of U.S. domestic textile and apparel manufacturing. Particularly, when Vietnam becomes more capable of making textile inputs by its own,  not only Vietnam’s overall demand for imported textiles will decline, but also Vietnam’s apparel exports will become even more price-competitive in the U.S. as well as the world marketplace.

 US T&A manfuacturing

US Textile exports

vietnam import source

vietnam import source

US apparel import source

*Note:1. The estimation is conducted based on the latest Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) 9.0 database which includes complete bilateral trade information, transport and protection linkages of 140 countries and 57 sectors. Four scenarios are estimated:

  • Scenario 1 (Tariff reduction only): assumes tariff rate for textile and apparel traded between the twelve TPP members are eliminated, whereas tariff rate for other textile and apparel trade flows remain unchanged.
  • Scenario 2 (Tariff reduction + yarn forward): assumes that in addition to tariff reduction among TPP members for T&A, Vietnam substantially increases tariff rate by 100 percent for textile imports from its leading suppliers that are non-TPP members (i.e. China, South Korea and Taiwan). This policy shock provides strong financial incentives for Vietnam to import less textile from non-TPP suppliers and instead import more from other TPP members—an equivalent effect as the yarn forward rule.
  • Scenario 3(Tariff reduction + Vietnam develops local textile industry): assumes that in addition to tariff reduction among TPP members for T&A, productivity of Vietnam’s textile industry increases by 10 percent whereas productivity of other sectors remain unchanged.
  • Scenario 4 (Tariff reduction + yarn forward + Vietnam develops local textile industry): this scenario combines all policy shocks mentioned in scenario 1-3, i.e. tariff rate for textile and apparel traded between the twelve TPP members are eliminated, Vietnam substantially increases its tariff rate by 100 percent for textile imports from its leading suppliers that are non-TPP members (i.e. China, South Korea and Taiwan) and productivity of Vietnam’s textile industry increases by 10 percent.

 2. TPP1 includes Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Burnie, Chile and Peru; NAFTA1 includes Canada and Mexico; CAFTA1 includes all other CAFTA members except the United States.

Sheng Lu

2015 US Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study Released

[Note: The 2016 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study has been released]

UntitledThe U.S. Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) released its 2015 benchmarking study today. The report examines the industry’s business environment and outlook, sourcing practices as well as U.S. fashion companies’ viewpoints on critical trade policy agendas. Among the key findings:

  • Overall, respondents remain optimistic about the five-year outlook for the U.S. fashion industry. Like last year, they are most concerned about increasing production or sourcing costs, but they expect increases to be more modest this year.
  • Consistent with our 2014 findings, U.S. fashion companies are NOT moving away from China, and Bangladesh remains a popular sourcing destination with high growth potential, though not quite as high as last year.
  • Companies continue to diversify their sourcing, though free trade agreements (FTAs) and preference programs remain underutilized.
  • The U.S. fashion industry is a critical Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) stakeholder, as close to 80 percent of respondents expect implementation will impact their business practices. However, the restrictive rules in the agreement limit the potential.
  • U.S. fashion companies continue to express interest in expanding sourcing in the United States in the next two years as they further diversify their sourcing. However, there is no evidence that companies are shifting their business models back to manufacturing.

This benchmarking study was based on a survey of 30 executives at the leading U.S. fashion companies from March 2015 to April 2015. The findings well reflect the views of the most influential players in the U.S. fashion industry, with 90 percent of respondents having more than 100 employees (including 60 percent with more than 1,000 employees).

The full report can be downloaded from HERE.

Two Years after the Rana Plaza Tragedy: What Has Changed?

rana plaza

Note: the followings updates are compiled based on the 2015 Bangladesh Development Conference held from June 5th to 6th at the Harvard University. The conference attracted over 100 attendants and speakers from various aspects of the apparel industry, government agencies, international organizations, non-government organizations and academia.

1. Overall, the industry side argues that tremendous efforts have been made to improve work safety in the Bangladesh apparel industry and things are gradually improving. However, representatives from some labor unions say that changes are not happening fast enough as they should.

2. Indeed, as one of the most noticeable changes after the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Bangladesh apparel factories are now facing more frequent safety inspection and audit from various parties:

  • In addition to the regular inspection conducted by individual fashion brand or retailer, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the Accord) and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (the Alliance) were established in 2013 respectively (mostly funded by western apparel brands sourcing from Bangladesh) to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh apparel industry.
  • The Accord has a total five-year budget of $50 million to be used on factory safety inspection and improvement. However, it is far from being clear what will happen after the Accord agreement expires in 2018 and whether the inspection achievements can be maintained afterwards.
  • The International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation launched the “Better Work” program in collaboration with Bangladesh government, apparel factory owners, workers, fashion buyers and other relevant stakeholders. The program intends to provide assessments of factory compliance with national law and core international labor standards, paired with transparent public reporting on findings.
  • Nevertheless, some people argue that audit itself is not the answer to the problem, just like “a pig will not gain weight simply by weighting it; instead, we have to feed it.” Reflecting on the limitation of inspection and audit, they refer to compliance as just a piece of paper whereas ethics is something that keeps people awake in bed.

3. Some foreign governments also have responded to the Rana Plaza tragedy, although in different ways:

  • Stick: the U.S. government decided to suspend Bangladesh’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status in 2013 as a response to the Rana Plaza tragedy. Because textile and apparel are excluded from GSP, this measure has no direct impact on Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the United States. But the movement is symbolic and significantly increases the publicity of corporate social responsibility (CRS) issue in the Bangladesh apparel industry.
  • Carrot: in comparison, the European Union chooses to continue providing Bangladesh its GSP benefits. As a GSP beneficiary, Bangladesh’s apparel exports to EU can enjoy duty free treatment when competing with other Asian suppliers such as China and India. According to EU, from 2008 to 2012 EU28 imports from Bangladesh increased from €5,464 million to €9,212 million (+69%), which is more than half of Bangladesh’s total exports. While granting Bangladesh the benefit, EU also launches the GSP Action Plan and the Sustainability Compact to encourage responsible businesses in Bangladesh.

4. Training has been provided for Bangladesh officials to help them better understand building safety requirements.

5. More apparel factories in Bangladesh now have their own labor unions. According to the local law, 30 percent of the labor force in a factory can form its own labor union, meaning theoretically one factory can have up to three different unions. There has been more open discussions on “worker/women empowerment”, “social dialogue” and “stakeholder engagement” in the Bangladeshi society as well.  

6. Some creative financial incentive mechanisms are suggested to improve the situation, such as offering factories with better compliance record with more attractive interest rate for bank loans; and adding building safety clauses in factory insurance contract.  

7. Academia is actively engaged in finding a solution for improving the CRS practices in the Bangladesh apparel industry as well:

  • Based on analyzing the factory inspection data, some scholars start to evaluate the effectiveness of the current inspection system (eg: does who pay for the inspection matter for the result? Does violation go down overtime in inspection? What is the role of on-going people to people relationship in inspection?).
  • Some projects intend to develop an estimate of the true size of the Bangladesh apparel industry, given the fact that the worst work condition may exist in those undocumented factories. As a matter of fact, even the Bangladesh government doesn’t know how many garment factories they have in the country.
  • Some scholars propose the idea of linking a company’s social compliance data with its business financial data to evaluate the business implication of CRS practices.
  • Some studies compare the labor practices between Bangladesh and other developing countries in South Asia such as Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
  • Some people suggest using case studies to develop hypotheses for a policy change.
  • More and more studies are now conducted based on field trip and interview in Bangladesh.

8. Criminal charges recently are filed against a dozen individuals and companies identified responsible for the Rana Plaza tragedy.

9. Response to the Rana Plaza tragedy has further led to a discussion on the broader economic, social and political reform in Bangladesh.

Sheng Lu