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The UK clothing industry: Extinction or evolution?

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To provide an opinion as to the demise or metamorphosis of the UK clothing industry within the wider European context. Recently conducted research, along with a range of pertinent published (1978-2004) statistical data are used to inform the authors' viewpoint on the development of the UK clothing industry. The statistical evidence describing the change in import penetration, employment levels and the impact of the national minimum wage support the view that a new typology of the clothing industry is emerging from the ashes of a rapidly declined manufacturing base. Some of the detail of garment types is hidden by the SIC system. Conversely, at times, the very categories used appear to have little contemporary relevance. Three areas of concern would remain: first, that over time the cluster itself would lose its critical mass; second, that the cluster might collapse if the central core of manufacturing is hollowed out; and third, that over time some of the "knowledge based" tasks such as design and product development might themselves be subject to migration to lower-cost locations. This paper contributes a carefully considered, and compiled, viewpoint from experienced observers of the UK clothing industry that augments the debate centred on the development of the EU clothing industry.

Keywords: Garment Industry; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2004


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