Sourcing garments from local manufacturers will accelerate our markets, reduce retail markdowns, and improve our carbon footprint, says the global head of sourcing quality and innovation at Woolworths, Lawrence Pillay.
This follows a commitment by South African retailers, including Woolworths, to increase investments in local clothing manufacturers. The retailers signed an industry plan that includes a target to source 65% of their goods from local manufacturers within the next decade.
Pillay indicates that Woolworths currently source garments from manufacturers from various regions across the world, including South Africa.
“Currently about 50% of our purchases are from Southern African countries with 30% out of South Africa specifically,” he says.
He signifies that they want to increase their investment in local manufactures by purchasing more clothing.
“We have developed a local strategy to drive more local procurement by engaging differently with our suppliers to unlock value within the local supply chain.
“In addition, the commitment to grow local is driven by a sector master plan with various role players within this value chain including retail, government, labour and manufacturing all shifting elements within their space to help support and promote local manufacturing.”
However, while a commitment by retailers to source the majority of their clothing from local manufacturers has great potential to stimulate that industry, there are some stumbling blocks preventing the cotton industry from also benefitting.
According to Tanya Aucamp, independent communications specialist at Cotton SA and the founder and CEO of Social Weaver Communications, the majority of the cotton produced in South Africa is exported.
This is due to a lack of technology that can transform the cotton plant into fibres that can be used to produce materials.
Aucamp reveals that currently only 20% of the cotton produced in South Africa is used locally and as much as 80% of our cotton must be exported. This is due to an undersupply of skills and a shortage of local spinning technology. Therefore, “a lot more textiles will be imported,” she says.
She furthermore indicates that the retailers’ support will therefore mostly be focusing on local manufacturing more than supporting local fibre. “That doesn’t mean they don’t support the local fibre. They very much want to, and they very much have an intention to, and there is a commitment, but if the spinning factory doesn’t have the right technology to spin the fibre it has to be exported.”