& Kate Annett-Hitchcock
North Carolina State University, USA
Challenges faced by apparel and textile entrepreneurs seeking US production and sourcing - a study of startup survey data
In the midst of global reshaping of the fashion industry, the United States is experiencing a growth in consumer demand for ‘Made in USA’ textile and apparel products. Data shows this industry ranks third in reshoring activity and foreign direct investment in the United States. The presence of entrepreneurial small businesses has contributed significantly to this growth. Manufacturing firms with fewer than 20 employees account for 82% of the industry.
The purpose of this study is to first present a profile of the identity of these entrepreneurs, and then investigate the potential challenges that entrepreneurs face as they balance production issues with other values. The study uses five years of secondary survey data responses (n=1,319), obtained from an organization that provides sourcing and educational support for the US textile and apparel industry.
An analysis of the data suggests that casual apparel is the most popular product category (25%), followed by performance sportswear (16.8%). Based on results of the study, 62% of respondents indicate their commitment to 100% US sourcing and production. However, among those who were committed to 100% domestic sourcing and production, 90.4% needed support for their production operations and 69.8% were unable to find a source for their materials procurement. The results suggest that participants are more challenged in the areas of production and sourcing, compared to marketing and branding. The US is encouraging entrepreneurship and small business job creation. However, the outcome of this study suggests a gap between the meta-goals and values of these entrepreneurs, who embrace bringing industry ‘home’, and the daily logistical issues that they face in making these goals a reality. Conclusions and recommendations of the paper highlight potential ways of reducing this gap and suggest managerial strategies.