US Textile and Apparel Manufacturing and Sourcing During COVID-19: Discussion Questions from FASH455

#1:  As of June 2021, US textile production had resumed about 98.8% of its production capacity at the pre-COVID level. Based on the readings, why or why not do you think the industry is already “out of the woods”? How to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the international competitiveness of US textile production?

#2: To which extent do you think the state of the US textile and apparel industry and its performance during the pandemic challenge the conclusions of the classic trade and economic development theories we learned in the class (e.g., comparative advantage, factor proportion, the international division of labor, and stage of development theories)? Do you find any trade or production patterns that existing theories cannot fully explain?

#3 Many US fashion companies’ strategies to “consolidate existing sourcing base and strengthen the relationship with key vendors” during the pandemic. What is your evaluation of this strategy—is it a short-term reaction toward COVID-19 or a long-term trend likely to stay? What does this strategy mean for vendors in the apparel supplying countries?

#4: What are the notable changes in fashion companies’ sourcing criteria during the pandemic? How to explain such changes? Who are the winners and losers? Why?

#5: It is of concern that sustainability and social responsibility become a lower priority for the apparel industry during the pandemic, given the unprecedented operational and financial challenges companies face. What is your assessment based on the readings?

#6: What is your vision for the US textile and apparel industry in the post-COVID world? What are the key issues/questions/development trends we shall watch?

(Welcome to our online discussion. For students in FASH455, please address at least two questions and mention the question number (#) in your reply)

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

9 thoughts on “US Textile and Apparel Manufacturing and Sourcing During COVID-19: Discussion Questions from FASH455”

  1. 1# Based on the readings, I think the US textile industry has likely not gone “out of the woods” yet. Despite US textile production having resumed around 98.8% of its production capacity, the industry was seriously impacted by the pandemic. For example, the value of US textile and apparel exports in 2020 decreased 2020 by 15.5% including a 26% decrease in yarn exports. Such impact is likely going to take years to fully recover from. I think the pandemic has a relatively small impact on the international competitiveness of US textile production. As Mexico and other Central American countries are the main export market for US textile products, the US continues to demonstrate substantial competitiveness in lead time due to their geographic proximity.

    3# I think the trend for fashion companies to consolidate their sourcing base and strengthen the relationship with key vendors is likely to stay. As The pandemic bought much public attention to issues regarding social compliance and sustainability, the strategy of reducing vendors can provide more transparency to the supply chain, which would be favored by customers. For vendors, the strategy means they need to adopt more vertical operations, increase reliability, and improve their areas of production to meet the demands of US companies.

  2. #5 In my opinion is it a major concern that sustainability and social responsibility have become a lower priority for the apparel industry during the pandemic. It is known that the fashion industry is one of the worst industries when it comes to environmental impacts. In the past few years, more information and data has revealed to consumers just how much of an impact it is, and has made consumers more aware of the issue. Some major fashion companies took these concerns to mind (ex. H&M) and worked to create more sustainable and eco-conscious items. COVID-19 has caused a lot of industries to shift their practices, but having the fashion industry shift their environmental practices is not okay. I hope these companies, even with profits shifting and being impacted from COVID-19 still remember the importance of planet over profit!

  3. #3 Many US fashion companies’ strategies to “consolidate existing sourcing bases and strengthen the relationship with key vendors” during the pandemic. What is your evaluation of this strategy—is it a short-term reaction toward COVID-19 or a long-term trend likely to stay? What does this strategy mean for vendors in the apparel supplying countries?
    -The strategy of US fashion companies to consolidate existing sourcing bades and strengthen the relationship with key vendors during the pandemic was once a short term reaction but is likely to stay. This strategy helps brands to build flexibility and dual sourcing options. It is important that brands have strong relationships with their suppliers in order to ensure their suppliers are following the appropriate protocol and are manufacturing products in a safe and ethical way. Having strong relationships with suppliers will allow brands to ensure this is occurring, as well as have flexibility if something goes wrong during the manufacturing process. This strategy of consolidating sourcing bases was originally a temporary solution, but I think it will become more permanent, as brands are realizing how beneficial this strategy is.

    #5: It is of concern that sustainability and social responsibility become a lower priority for the apparel industry during the pandemic, given the unprecedented operational and financial challenges companies face. What is your assessment based on the readings?
    -Based on the readings, I think fashion brands have placed less priority on sustainability and social responsibility during the pandemic. Many brands had to adjust their sourcing strategies during the pandemic, and it can be said that companies are placing more priority on remaining economically stable and continuing to earn profits during this difficult time. Companies, when deciding on where to source their products, may not investigate as thoroughly nito the manufacturer’s activities because they are more concerned with getting products made and shipped out to customers on time. I would hope that once the pandemic dies down, companies will shift more of their focus back to sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

  4. The covid-19 pandemic has severely changed how the fashion industry does business now and going forward. First I would like to talk about the disruption covid-19 had on the different sectors in the fashion industry. For starters the covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for supply chains to work together. Trading was difficult because we were dealing with lock downs and countries banning trade. Overall, this led to countries figuring out different ways they could get products to their consumers. For example, the United States had a hard time getting products manufactured in third world countries like Bangladesh that being said, at some point brands and companies in the U.S. canceled multiple POs because of shipping delays. This led to a lot of job losses in underdeveloped countries because brands and companies were canceling orders which effected their whole economy because all the money these countries get comes from the apparel sector. The United States didn’t want to cancel these orders but they had to and because of that they had to figure out an alternative. One of those alternatives was near shoring and producing more locally to allow for better communication and lead times. Going forward I think the whole apparel and textile sectors will change. I think everyone will take this pandemic and try to less diversify their supply chain to make it less complicated to get a product from manufacturer to store at a faster rate. I think in the next 10 years the fashion industry is really going to involve AI and technology advanced countries because after this pandemic a lot of stuff is just going on line especially clothes.

  5. #4 During a pandemic, I think it is important to adapt procurement methods to make procurement more flexible and to use digital technology. As a result of the epidemic, fashion companies have been greatly affected, such as postponing or canceling purchase orders. Increased flexibility allows faster response to supply chain issues and loss reduction. Flexible sourcing and the use of digital technology have helped the fashion industry respond quickly to the challenge of changing the way it was bought in the past and evolving in a new and more modern way.

  6. #4 The pandemic has reshaped the fashion companies’ sourcing criteria. Before the pandemic, most of US fashions brands and retailers source the products from China. Now, they turn to a new strategy called China Plus One. It means the US fashion brands and retailers would diversify sourcing and investing into other countries, not only in China. When China started the lock down due to Covid, it heavily impacted on the whole global supply chain. A lot of companies didn’t prepare for this situation and they were on products shortage. This business strategy can help them having flexible sourcing and less dependent on China. Vietnam and Bangladesh are the winners in this situation, they get a lot of benefits when fashion companies seeked the sourcing in these countries.

  7. #2: From my perspective, the state of the US textile and apparel industry and its performance during the pandemic has slightly challenged the conclusions of the classic trade and economic development theories. Though the output value has largely declined in the US, the state and performance of the US textile and apparel industry still match the factor proportion and comparative advantage. As a developed economy, the US is abundant in capital and technology, which encompass the advantage of producing textile, while the US is focused on the high-end apparel industry. What confuses me about the production patterns is the increasing output of the apparel industry. With the negative economic development of the pandemic, the high-end apparel industry should have had trouble developing. However, according to the statistics, it is increasing yearly and is even more than the value before the pandemic.
    #6: My visions for the US textile and apparel industry in the post-COVID world are very positive with a larger export market. With the trade relationships established by the Biden administration, there will be more tariff benefits for the US textile and apparel products in the world market. The textile industry will be more capitalized and automatized in order to meet the increasing demands. As the Biden administration is implementing the worker-centered policies. I think the apparel industry will be supported more than before as it can create more job opportunities and help America to build back the economy. The main issue faced by the US textile and apparel industry is the environment’s sustainable development. The American companies will need to take the responsibility to reduce pollution and waste and to use more environmentally-friendly materials.

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