While offshore textile manufacturing remains popular among business, it seems that the textile industry in the UK has seen growth in recent years.
Low-cost manufacturing in emerging markets has taken its toll on the UK textile industry as many companies have outsourced to countries such as China and India. As a result, hundreds of thousands of textile manufacturing jobs have been lost in the UK. Yet there are signs the textile industry might be waking up.
Part of the reason for this is that products made in Britain have proved to be attractive to some customers. This is what Burberry and Mulberry discovered with their Made in Britain label, which is manufactured in the UK and has become popular, particularly with buyers abroad. Marks and Spencer have also seen an opportunity in selling UK-made clothing and have utilised 20 businesses onshore to make products for their Best of British range.
Another advantage of reshoring the textile industry is that clothes produced in the UK can go to market quicker. In an interview with the BBC, Sophie Glover of ASOS explained that manufacturing clothes in the UK helps the fashion retailer keep up with the kinds of trends it caters for, more so than having to arrange production in China and wait for the results to be shipped to the UK.
The process of reshoring the textile industry to the UK is not without its challenges, however. As it has been more than 30 years since clothes manufacturing began moving abroad, there is now a skills shortage in this sector in the UK. People need to be trained from scratch, at a higher cost than what it is to hire fully-trained people working in emerging markets.
Yet, help is available to deal with the cost of training staff in the UK. The government’s Regional Growth Fund, for example, aims to help local businesses, such as textile firms. Mulberry are among the brands who have had to train workers from scratch and gained funding through this initiative.
Textile manufacturing will not move back to the UK overnight, but it is clear that it has a presence in the country and that presence is growing.