SA’s clothing industry ‘must seize chances’

Written by Lisa Isaacs for IOL


Cape Town – With the clothing and textile industry beginning to stabilise after years of turmoil and job losses, local companies have been urged to come together and grow their export footprint.

The 2016 Clothing, Textile and Leather Industry Imbizo, presented by the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) yesterday, brought together industry leaders to consider and practically plan how to maximise their exports.

Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said the industry was poised for growth.

“The growth won’t come if we sit and relax. Now we have to think about what vision we want to put to the industry. Currently in our industry, there are very minimal exports even though the opportunities are there.

“There is the African Growth and Opportunity Act which the industry hasn’t exploited yet. There is the advantage of the weak currency, but that hasn’t been exploited,” said Kriel.

“Ultimately, the more the industry exports, the more local manufacturing can take place, and that results in job creation in our industry.”

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel called on local manufacturers to collaborate in export efforts.

“To successfully conquer export markets, you’ve got to hunt in packs. You can’t do it as a single company. So, while you are huge competitors in the local market, you’ve got to develop degrees of collaboration to break into the export markets,” he said.

Global retail players in South Africa operate more aggressively, he said. “If you look at our shopping malls today, they are increasingly becoming indistinguishable from retail malls elsewhere in the world.

“South African malls themselves should be showcasing South African fashion. Well-branded local fashion is often absent,” Patel said.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the competitiveness of the industry has risen partly as a result of government support programmes.

He said the government had taken measures over the last few years to defend South African borders against the influx of illegal imports flooding the market.

According to Davies, the department had provided R3.5 billion worth of support through the Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Programme, which ensured that 65 000 jobs were kept and 7 000 new ones created.

He said the footwear and leather industry has also been revived, now contributing about R5bn to export earnings, with 20 new factories opened.

Clothing and textile companies have adapted to the “fast fashion” approach, getting a product to retailers faster than imported goods, Davies said.