Spurious "Doom Cult" Sapping Apparel Industry Confidence
Buyer, government, worker, and investor confidence throughout the world’s clothing industry is being undermined by inaccurate claims from industry leaders who ought to know better, says a new report. Too often these reports are shown to be false just days or even hours later. But it’s the “Doom culture” version, rather than the less dramatic correction, that lives on.
Examples in the March edition of The Source:
- the Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau revealed the country’s clothing exports had grown 17.6% in January – just weeks after the head of the country’s apparel trade association had confidently asserted January exports were 5% down
- A Guatemalan trade association leader reportedly claiming that 30% of garment workers had lost their jobs in just one month. He was actually saying 30% of the industry’s workers might lose their jobs this year.
- A consultant claiming Sri Lanka’s clothing industry had shrunk over the past five years. In fact independent data shows it exported 50% more clothes in 2008 that five years earlier
- The Cambodian Commerce Minster claiming his country’s clothing exports had fallen 70% in January. 48 hours later, his officials revealed exports were 250% greater than he’d claimed.
“In The Source, we don’t reprint press releases” said Clothesource CEO Mike Flanagan. “We won’t report anyone’s claims till we’ve cross checked. Right now we’re seeing an explosion of truly preposterous exaggerations. Sometimes it’s just sloppy reporting or mistranslation - but it’s the first, overgloomy, version that gets quoted and re-quoted.”
Does it matter?
“Yes” said Flanagan. “False exaggerations undermine:
- Buyer confidence – as they get increasingly worried factories might go under
- Worker trust. If they hear claims they know are false, they assume owners are trying to reduce wages or stage fake closures to avoid paying outstanding wages
- Government support. Many governments routinely dismiss the textile industry’s “endless moaning”
- Banks’ credit. Factories everywhere are struggling for working capital
Worst, exaggerations about sales distract attention from the real problems. “Many clothing factories are struggling because their customers are delaying payment, their banks won’t provide affordable credit, prices are falling orders aren’t getting confirmed till late, and power supplies are getting less reliable.
“Worldwide, factories are exporting about the same number of clothes as they did in 2006. Egypt, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Honduras and Nicaragua sold more clothes to the US in 2008 than ever before” Flanagan added.
“There’s a lot of positive news. This month The Source reports new factories opening from Macedonia to Bangladesh to Vietnam, and established factories, from El Salvador’s Confecciones del Valle to India’s Bombay Rayon, reporting bulging order books.
“But there’d be a lot more good news if it wasn’t for this unjustified cult of doom” Flanagan concluded.
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