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Comment: £15 Billion in Stock Write – Offs! Time to Change How We Produce Fashion


Unprecedented amounts of fashion stock is building up in warehouses as retailers are unable to sell their planned spring / summer lines. Shops not classed as essential have been closed since the 16th March 2020 resulting in a 70 per cent sales plunge. The Times (14th April 2020) reported that this could result in £15 billion in stock write-offs. It reported that trend focused retailers such as Arcadia, Primark and Next have halted or cancelled orders. While others such as M&S have delayed orders until lockdown measures have been lifted.

Retail analysts have warned that this build up of stock will result in extreme discounting in a bid to move it on. Those worse off will be the value fashion chains that rely on fast fashion items that are on-trend. Consumers have shown that they do not want to buy a new outfit to stay at home and it could be some time before the high street returns to normal. Analysts also warn that many retailers are in a very precarious position with many already struggling before the coronavirus crisis took hold. Latest casualties include Oasis and Warehouse and analysts say more administrations will be inevitable.

In tandem with this news story is a stark revelation that Ghana’s rivers are choking with the UK’s unwanted clothing. Fifteen million pieces of discarded clothing arrive in bales every week at Kantamanto, Ghana. So much that the country is on the brink of an environmental disaster. Surely this is a very loud alarm call for the industry and how it operates?

Fashion-Enter Ltd CEO Jenny Holloway comments:

“£15bn of stock to be written off is now estimated – how can retailers and e-tailers ever regain these losses? Well, in a small way they can start by operating on a lean ‘speed of response’ basis. The worst scenario is for any retailer to be sitting on stock and not selling – worse still not even have the bricks and mortar doors open to even let the shopper browse.

“Before the lockdown we worked with ASOS.com to ensure that we could minimise losses by cancelling orders that we could get out of fabric commitment for (without hurting the fabric agent too I hasten to add) and then we agreed to keep fabric stocks on the shelves rather than have the garments made up and collecting lint dust! It’s always better to work in tandem together to ensure that efficiencies can be gained. 

“I honestly believe that there will be an initial upsurge however when the lockdown is removed. People will want their #comingoutdresses – already on social media – and will want to go out and celebrate and why shouldn’t they! The lockdown has been hard for everyone especially those that have lost loved ones.

“So that’s when the UK comes into its own – UK manufacturing can not only jump to demand it can say how high do you want us to jump! The girls are amazing here at the Factory – they are turning out the scrubs, which are on a heavyweight woven fabric and their accuracy and speed gets faster and more impressive each day.  

“We are missing working with ASOS.com of course but at the moment we are here ready for the NHS but in three weeks time this may all be changed again – that’s the beauty of making in the UK. Total flexibility and ready to take on challenges!”

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