UK textile and apparel manufacturers are seeing an increase in inquiries and confirmed orders, as supply chains to China are disrupted.
For decades, big British retailers turned their backs on UK garment manufacturers. Hundreds of textile factories in towns across the UK closed as High Street stores preferred to buy cheaper clothes from China. According to one manufacturer, “Today we are seeing demand for more seasonal products. We’re coming into the season for swimwear and that’s nearly all made in China and you’re going to start seeing a lack of those products in stores or certainly a lot less than you would have before.” In a recent survey, most UK companies said they are seeing an increase in demand. “All different sorts of products people are looking to make here now: knitwear, dress factories getting increased orders, even demand for face masks – we’re being asked if we know people who can make them,” said sources.
A product made in a UK factory can reach the shop shelves eight to 12 weeks after it’s ordered, much faster than the five to six months it takes to transport it on a boat from China. In that time, a fashion trend may have passed altogether.
As part of the survey results, manufacturers described how some retailers appeared surprised at the low costs of producing in the UK now, with the added bonus of proximity to the market, cutting transport costs and potentially enhancing their environmental credentials.
A small increase in demand at this early stage doesn’t represent an immediate switch back to UK production, and there may not be businesses left now that can meet every increase in demand.