The Impact of Covid on Custom Clothing Manufacturers
COVID's impact on clothing suppliers:
It’s no surprise that the global pandemic has affected pretty much every industry in some way. Custom clothing manufacturers are certainly at the top of that list for one simple reason - they have a lot of overhead and when the demand drops, those overheads don’t go away.
Regardless of where your supply chain is situated, custom clothing manufacturers have to endure a very large amount of overhead to efficiently run the operation - from the warehouse space, to machinery and ultimately staff. Running a business is tough - you want the best staff and machinery to produce the best quality items, but you also have to strike a balance between what’s viable given your demand and what you need in terms of infrastructure to appropriately grow and expand; this applies to all businesses, but especially custom clothing manufacturers.
The real reason most suppliers are unable to produce high quality work isn’t just because they’re lazy, but instead, it often comes down to them massively outgrowing their infrastructure, taking on more work then they can handle and ultimately the quality of said work suffers. The service also suffers- communication becomes bleak, turnaround times go out the window and every promise ever made turns into an empty one as the clothing supplier struggles to deal with the demand and maintain the quality and service they strive to achieve.
Now, that being said COVID hasn’t helped this. Many of our custom clothing manufacturers have had to lay off staff and downsize facilities in an attempt to minimise their overhead and stay above water. However, the issue is that these moves were made in the midst of a panic… unlike the UK, a lot of South East Asian suppliers didn’t have the same level of financial support from their government and this led to them having to make these tough decisions early on so to maintain a longer burn rate. The impact of this is still being felt today - some custom clothing manufacturers who we were confident could push 20,000-50,000 units monthly are now struggling to handle 1/4 of that - their service and quality is ultimately suffering as a lot of the work got pushed back to China following their quick recovery, whilst the rest of Globe struggled to manage and this left them with a higher than usual demand, less infrastructure to deal with this demand and ultimately… well, you know the rest.
One thing we, as one of the leading clothing manufacturers in the UK have done is to try and take some of the burden and strain off of our custom clothing manufacturers. We’ve done this by implementing these measures;
- Always securing at least 60% down payment on any bespoke orders; this allows the factory to cover the material and operational costs for the order upfront,
- Sharing any additional, unexpected costs - such as a sudden increase in shipping rates,
- Always paying the balance on time. When a factory has finished the work, they often need to offload that fairly quickly and we ensure we clear the balance so the sock moves,
- Paying custom clothing manufacturers regardless - whether we get paid or not, we always cover this to our clothing suppliers so to ensure they’re not impacted
Now, with all of that said and done, it still isn’t enough. We’re looking for ways in which we can help our custom clothing manufacturers and assist them so that we can all bounce back from this pandemic together, whilst building a stronger working relationship.
This working relationship will ultimately benefit our clients - there will be greater trust, reliability and transparency down the supply chain, which we will ultimately look to implement with our clients which will ensure a greater level of communication, service delivery and overall quality. I know we say this all of the time, but we really are here to constantly develop and further evolve the services we offer and we are looking to cement ourselves as one of the leading UK clothing manufacturers, if not the go-to company for all white label and custom clothing manufacturing requirements.
Anthony Mellor is a fashion entrepreneur, writer and consultant. Anthony writes in-depth articles about topics related to fashion, business and supply chains.
Anthony successfully scaled and exited a D2C fashion brand at the young age of 20. Since then, he's gone onto start and successfully operate two multi-6-figure clothing manufacturing businesses and currently offers up one-to-one constancy to brand owners.