Textiles Sector: the gap between the developed and developing nations
Textiles and clothing play a major role in the development and industrialization process of countries and their integration into the world economy.
Turkish textiles are rich in history, going back to the Ottoman period in the 16th and 17th centuries. Until the end of the Ottoman Empire, its economy relied heavily on the contribution of textiles and the importance of the textile industry to the Turkish economy continues today. As we see the improvements, today's Turkish textile industry benefits from many advantages including: A richness in basic raw materials, a ranking of sixth in the world for cotton production, geographic proximity to main markets (Europe and Russia), short lead times due to geographic positioning, and etc.
These advantages have helped to make the Turkish industry a model for other countries outside Europe and the US and as a result, the Turkish textile companies are growing very fast. A very good example is “Aster Textile” which is situated in Istanbul, Turkey having a very qualified customer base such as Zara, Mango, Mark & Spencer, Esprit, Bestseller Group and so on. Undoubtedly, these are the most important fast-fashion brands in the world. This proves us the company's success to responding to changing strong fashion trends and getting the best clients in their field.
However, the situation is not the same in the world. So many things have changed in the past 60 years. For example; United Kingdom was once considered as a big textile and manufacturing magnet but today China, India, Turkey and other developing countries are proving that the situation is reverse. The first factor is; in these low middle-income countries, textiles and clothing is a key export; especially Bangladesh has the highest total dependence on textiles andclothing as a total share of merchandise exports (83.5%), followed by Pakistan (67.2%) and Sri Lanka (47%). Other factor is, they are having much lower wages than UK and the cost of labor is cheaper. After that, there are other reasons why the UK manufacturing market is in decline. In the past, large UK retailers used to tell the consumer what they should be buying. Today it is the other way around. The consumer tells the retailer what they should be selling. In my opinion, the consumer has so many options today especially through the internet and if the retailer doesn't have it, the consumer knows where to get it.
The Iran-born businessman Lord Alliance of Manchester, at one time the founder of the world’s biggest textile companies ‘Coats Viyella’, is complaining about this situation and wants the manufacturing and textiles to turn back to UK. During his interview with Financial Times, he said “I question whether the likes of Marks and Spencer can keep going as successful companies without switching over to a considerable amount of UK-based sourcing.”Unfortunately, one time textiles leader Lord Alliance will have to work harder to go back to the past days.
However, another fast-fashion company seems on the right track; according to the Financial Times; this year about 10 per cent of River Island’s revenues are expected to come from UK sourcing, with the amount of purchasing from domestic factories having increased by half in the past year. I believe if they could respond to the trends quicker, they could get more results in UK sourcing and UK customer would be also pleased having UK made products. They could also use the technology as another advantage to get back on track and it would be wise to get more labor content with the usage of it. As we all know, Asian countries are much slower in integrating the technology in the garments and its contents, the established player can use this opportunity in their favor. In addition, strong element in fashion always works out in the end. That would be an advantage for UK suppliers if they want to go further than the Asian ones, they could produce more fashion-oriented products and customers would be in-line with them.
But, there is another problem. We have to consider the retailers creating long and complex supply chains, which makes it difficult to control them. That's why I believe they are missing the opportunity of bringing fresh designs to the stores. However, if the domestic market in the UK could make some effort seeing the advantages of UK based manufacturing and what could make the UK customer more friendly to the domestic products, I am sure they could see some results but, unfortunately, I don't assume the situation could be fixed in the near future observing the improvements in Turkey, China and other similar countries. Moreover, it would be hard to replace the lost production. Satisfying the changing wishes of the consumer has never been easy, and it won't be so, in the future, either.