2013: Year of the Onshoring Movement?
By Susan S. Nichols
This year certainly has not been a boring one for the apparel and retail world, and as we reflect on major 2012 themes while looking toward 2013, onshoring definitely makes the list.
Is the idea of bringing production closer to home (whether that means the Western Hemisphere or the United States) a lot of talk or a real possibility? Hard to say. But there is a ton of talk, and some action too.
What’s clear is that rising costs in China, combined with escalating energy, raw materials and transportation costs, are giving retailers and brands alike reason to pause and reconsider their supply bases. After all, any opportunity to save time (read money) and better serve the consumer closer to the source deserves study. Sure, there are obstacles (and we all know what they are, from a textile supply base, to labor, to buyers not even knowing what the options are), but the world is a different place than it was 10 years ago — and that could translate to a different kind of tomorrow.
Throughout the year, the onshoring theme has continued to resurface. Upon returning from Sourcing at MAGIC in August (where Apparel hosts a Sourcing Summit), I wrote about how many retailers and manufacturers told me there was serious renewed interest in this hemisphere. And we also reported on the presence of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the event, where he spoke about the significance of the L.A. apparel industry and announced, in conjunction with the LA Regional Export Council, plans for a Made In L.A.
database of apparel and related firms.
At last month’s board of directors meeting of the Textile/Clothing Technology Corp. [TC]2 (which has a focus on driving innovative technology to improve the competitiveness of the apparel/textile industry), the organization announced its intent to pilot a U.S. factory project, wherein 50-operator factories, located close to the source of distribution, would embrace “all we know about lean manufacturing and lean management — on steroids,” said Will Duncan, vice president of business development. A planning session is taking place early this month and funding for the concept is being sought.
Last March, at the Annual Summit of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), I met Paul Grangaard, president and CEO of Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation and I thought he would be a good candidate to contribute to this issue’s 2013 Outlook. Turns out that like many others who shared thoughts with us, he wanted to talk about onshoring. In the report (which starts on page 20), he says, “Made in USA is a trend that is here to stay. … Customers want inspiring design, long-lasting construction, high-quality materials, Made-in-USA workmanship when possible, and compelling price promotions.”
Norberto Menendez, director, SG Knits/United Pacific Group S.R.L, shares that his firm is planning to open a cut-and-sew facility in South Carolina in 2013 to provide 100 percent Made in U.S.A. full-package. It’s the result of his company having been approached by a major group of its customers, given that SG Knits/United Pacific already utilizes 100 percent U.S. yarns, knitting and dyeing.
Mike Todaro, managing director, American Apparel Producers Network, says, “2013 will be the ‘Year of the Americas.’ ”
Eric Spackey, CEO, Bluewater Defense Inc., says Made in the U.S.A. is an academic discussion unless purchase orders come in from retailers such as Walmart, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Target, etc. But he’s hopeful that Americans are willing to pay more for products made in the United States, understanding the “multiplier effect” it will have on our economy.
There’s so much more to read in this Outlook from a variety of leading executives on a wide range of issues, from retail environments, to customer engagement, to supply chains, to the need for exporting and more. We thank them all for their thoughtful responses.
As we head into 2013, we at Apparel wish you a happy and safe holiday season and a prosperous new year. And as to whether 2013 becomes the Year of Onshoring, or just another year in the Chinese zodiac, here’s hoping that this great nation wins back a few jobs, while continuing to be a global leader in design, technology and innovation.
Susan S. Nichols is publisher of Apparel.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.