Anti-government riots in Egypt have slowed supplies of product from the country, piling fresh pressure on brands and retailers to re-examine their supply bases and bring them closer to home.
The violent protests which erupted last week have forced some Cairo textile factories to slow production or close, and caused severe disruption to transport and communications in the region.
One supplier, whose clients include Marks & Spencer, Primark and Arcadia, said: “We can’t shift the goods. We’ve had goods waiting at Port Said for days. We can’t get goods in the air as [airlines are] only taking holidaymakers. To make matters worse, we can’t get the paperwork needed to ship, as there’s no internet.” As Drapers went to press the supplier said orders had been delayed by five days, including an “all-store” delivery for Arcadia.
However, Malcolm Ball, chairman of trade body the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry, said the disruption was not as severe as feared but warned: “If it started to gain momentum, there would be serious concerns.”
As revealed by Drapers last week, growing unreliability of production and delivery of stock from overseas has prompted premium and mid-market retailers to look for new suppliers in the UK. Last week, N Brown-owned JD Williams called for UK suppliers to work with the home-shopping giant to boost its UK manufacturing base. Drapers has since been contacted by tens of brands looking to source UK manufacturers and by UK manufacturers reporting an upturn in business.
According to the Purchasing Manufacturers Index, which polls UK manufacturers about trading conditions, production across all consumer goods sectors including textiles rose in January for the 20th consecutive month and at the fastest rate on record.
Made in Britain: your views
“It’s not retailers who are best positioned to take ‘Made In England’ to the overseas market, but manufacturers. This is not just the biggest story in fashion, nor in ecommerce, but in business in general.”
Noel Peatfield, business development manager, Kudos Web Solutions
“UK manufacturing only seems to work for top-end product. For the lower and middle market, it is a completely different story. Customers still have memories of the 1970s and 1980s, when much ‘Made in the UK’ product was, frankly, rubbish.”
“I’m currently looking into this issue at the London College of Fashion. The consumer research I have carried out [has shown] that consumers are very interested in this idea. British-made products do not necessarily have to have a heritage feel.”
Georgina Davies, student
“I’m starting a business where everything will be UK-manufactured. It was very hard to find a factory to make small quantities at an affordable price. The moment China becomes cheaper, big retailers will move production offshore.”
Hayley Chalmers, founder, Shortcouture.com