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Carmel Clothing: global expansion and consistent performance

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Managing director Simon Blayne explains how Carmel Clothing is investing to stay ahead of the competition

Simon carmel

Simon Blayne

Despite the uncertainty in the UK market, Carmel Clothing, supplier to some of the high street’s best-known names, is confidently investing for the future.

2017 was a year of further growth as we continue to supply womenswear and kidswear to Primark, George and Topshop, among many others, and are expanding our global reach and capabilities as we attract new customers in overseas markets.

I run a completely non-red-tape environment that evolves daily, enhancing the best talent and exploring new areas in supply to remain relevant. I believe strongly in creating opportunities for our teams and have a very hands-on approach to nurturing talent and building prospects.

My onus is on constant risk management across the operation, and the UK sector is currently particularly vulnerable. Knowing what your customer needs and aligning with the winners – and there are winners, even in this difficult climate – is essential.

Funding will continue to be an issue for retailers and suppliers. Knowing the numbers is vital and we are proud of our relationship with our strategic financial partner, Investec. With its support, belief in our strategies and understanding of fluidity and our vision, we have been able to globalise the business.

This coming year will be an exciting one for Carmel, as we have a series of initiatives for further growth. Our key focus will be our production bases, and building highly efficient teams on the ground to ensure ethical compliance and quality.

Carmel’s reputation for consistent quality within the supply chain means that we are now seeing more demand from customers worldwide. We have additional offshore sourcing offices to increase production capacity, further design and range expansion, and technology advancement as our whole model switches to 3D design for both development and technical.

Restructuring and expanding our Vietnam teams means we now have a fully functional direct global sales operation, which is well placed to capitalise on growth in the European, Americas and Australasian markets. Julie Ward, former technical manager at Marks & Spencer in Vietnam, now heads our quality and technical division.

We have undergone large-scale growth, which I believe can now only continue through exploration into new markets and economies offering a more direct model for certain customers.

We have just opened Carmel Lanka to offer a speed-to-market model with an emphasis on SAARC fabrics giving duty savings.

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Our Romania office is still growing, and showed double-digit growth for the first quarter of 2018, but we know the challenges ahead.

Labour costs in Bangladesh and Cambodia are rising as they continue to progress towards developed country status, and will soon be on par with Vietnam. We operate a large-scale model to secure best prices while maintaining our ethical integrity.

Production in China has been priced out for some time now and we are witnessing endless fabric-quality problems as suppliers try to squeeze the same volume through ever-decreasing dyeing and finishing facilities.

The Blue Sky policy to cut pollution will drive China’s fabric production to other countries, and we are seeing large-scale foreign investment incentive-driven programmes and facilities being constructed within Vietnam.

We are also excited to launch “Carmel Brands” womenswear and kidswear. These will be run independently from Carmel but be supported with its full financial backing and DNA.

We have invested further in our UK design team, vastly improving the quality of our product development along with the use of technology platforms. We are future-proofing ourselves with the introduction of 3D design technology throughout every Carmel office to strip out front-end costs from the business.

Our collaboration with digital solutions provider Optitex over the last two years has increased efficiency and decision making within our sales and technical divisions.

The future for Carmel is exciting as we continue to diversify and grow our business into new areas. In 2018 it will be the survival of the fittest and leanest, and we are driving the benchmark higher to ensure future success.

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