Globalization still dominates apparel production and it is highly unlikely that reshoring or backshoring will bring back many jobs that were lost via offshoring. IAF President Han Bekke said this at the SPESA Executive Conference in San Antonio (Texas-USA) where many apparel machinery suppliers were meeting.
There is still too much pressure for cheaper prices, Bekke said. He pointed at the dominance of big players in the fashion market who have made globalization more accessible via better IT systems and processes in their supply chain.
Most of the apparel production takes place in Asia, Middle and South America and Turkey.
Nevertheless Bekke sees a future for local manufacturing given great challenges the fashion sector is facing. The race to the bottom in terms of prices will not help companies to improve their profitability on a long term. Consumer behavior is changing in a climate of disruptive economical activities. Sustainability (social compliance and environmental compliance) is leading to a growing demand if not pressure for transparency, traceability and accountability.
The fashion system has to reinvent itself, Bekke said. From focus on price to focus on quality, more value for money, service and sustainability. Speed to market and mass customization form a growing business case for manufacturing closer to the market.
New technologies like 3D manufacturing and printing, robotization and digitalization could create new high-skilled jobs but less than the jobs that were lost via offshoring.