12 per cent of French retailers surveyed by IFM do not make forced labour a matter of conscience #669


On the occasion of the Première Vision trade show, which took place from 7 to 9 February 2022, Gildas Minvielle from the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) gave a lecture on the sourcing strategies of French retailers. A representative panel (first price, mid-range and premium) composed of a hundred brands, chains, popular hypermarkets and department stores.

Eco-responsibility is increasingly finding favour with French retailers. In 2022, 93 percent of them consider chemicals to be dangerous, compared to 78 percent in 2021. Water consumption, transport optimisation and greenhouse gas emissions come second. The IFM survey shows that the concerns for 2023 are changing. Digital, which was the number one issue in 2021 for 80 per cent of respondents, has dropped to 61 per cent in 2022. Sustainability-related topics are more attractive for 43 percent of respondents (compared to 38 percent in 2021).

Conversely, issues relating to working conditions have not yet mobilised French entrepreneurs. While child labour is banned by 100 per cent of retailers, only 88 per cent make forced labour a matter of conscience. For 12 per cent of them, it is not an issue. “Violation of minimum wage rights or the fact that some countries have very low wages are not a determining factor,” said Gildas Minvielle at the conference. It is not surprising that China, which is often singled out for its failure to respect human (and women’s) rights, remains the main supplier country for Western countries.

China remains the world’s largest textile exporter. But until when?

The growth rate of China’s exports to other regions of the world has been increasing by eight per cent per year since 2002. Its market share in world trade has increased from 32 to 33 per cent between 2020 and 2021. If China’s pre-eminence is tending to diminish, the IFM sees this not as a result of fashion industry awareness of the ecological or societal impact of Chinese imports, but as a link to “China’s new growth strategy, which relies more on its domestic market dynamics or its textile exports (44 per cent) than on its clothing exports”.

To add insult to injury, the study shows that long-term sourcing (i.e. from far-flung destinations) will account for 50 per cent of purchases in 2022. “Retailers are looking to maintain their margins by probably doing more long term,” says Gildas Minvielle. CQVD: more sourcing from Asia and Bangladesh. 73 percent of respondents say they want to reduce sourcing from China. 41 percent want to maintain supplies from Bangladesh, 50 percent from Vietnam and 68 percent from India.

The expert puts this into perspective by saying that 33 percent of retailers intend to increase short term (i.e. short channels) by 2023. 46 per cent of them say they want to increase imports from Morocco, 70 per cent from Tunisia, 52 per cent from Turkey, 74 per cent from Italy and 57 per cent from Portugal. 50 per cent want to source from France The future will tell whether these intentions are followed up.

After the shock of 2020, international trade is set to rise to $549 billion in 2022 from $450 billion in 2021. The largest flows are from Asia to Europe ($117 billion) and from Asia to America ($124 billion). The Americans were therefore the driving force behind trade between 2020 and 2021.

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