Clothing and textiles

Local is lekker at TFG

Local manufacture is bringing prices down at one of South Africa’s largest clothing retailers.

The Foschini Group, or TFG, was featured in a cover story by the business weekly Financial Mail. TFG has invested R1bn at five sites to rebuild capacity in the local clothing sector, and is producing garments cheaper than imports from Asia, including China.

“It’s not just buyers who are reaping the benefit; the communities around its five factories are thriving too,” the FM reported, with its cover proclaiming “Local is lekker” (local is nice).

One of the five sites is at the farming town of Caledon on South Africa’s west coast, where TFG’s Prestige Clothing factory makes clothes for the firm’s 3,301 South African stores. It has 750 staff, making it the largest employer in the town, apart from the farms.

TFG CEO Anthony Thunstrom said the company had spent nearly a decade learning how to outcompete international suppliers across a range of strategic product categories. Now, there are now more locally made garments than imported ones on the shelves of TFG’s South African stores.

In 2016, TFG produced 6-million garments in South Africa; last year, it produced 17-million; and it plans to hike that to 24-million within two years.

“We have learnt lessons along the way, but today we can produce a lot of products locally at parity, or better, to imported prices, and we take significantly less fashion risk because of the reduced lead times.”

TFG is not alone in local clothing manufacturing, but the Financial Mail says TFG is the largest overall. Its rival Pep has the country’s single-largest local manufacturing factory, in Cape Town, while about a third of the products that go into Cape Union Mart stores are made locally.

South Africa’s once-thriving clothing and textile industry was nearly killed by cheap Asian imports. The rebuilding is well under way.