'Embrace locally-made clothes'

HARARE - Zimbabwe Clothing Manufacturers’ Association chairperson, Jeremy Youmans, has urged retailers to embrace locally-made products so as to improve the fortunes of the country’s struggling clothing industry.

He told the Daily News during the just-ended 2012 Clothing Indaba that retailers and manufacturers have to work together for the revival of the industry.

“All products and services compete on three level prices, quality and delivery. Let us not try and compete on price only but also on quality. We can’t compete on price without quality”, said Youmans.

“We must give customers what they want and when they want it. I don’t understand the logistics and the problems we have with our own retail chains in this country.

“They tell you that they can source a product from China for a dollar cheaper than what you will be offering yet it is a long process (to bring goods from China),” he said.

Youmans added that local producers must focus on the distribution of quality products to secure Zimbabwe’s market.

Youmans believes buying locally has more advantages than importing.

“The retail outlets have to pay in advance and it will take a month for the product to be produced in China, three months to get here and another month to have the goods distributed to the various stores and they finance the whole chain.

“If they get their size or colour wrong they will wait for another three months to have the products delivered.

“The person who pays for all the delays is the consumer. The consumer must say that I don’t want to pay for that, I want a Zimbabwean product.

“There must be options for people and shops must have labels pointing out locally made products and give people options. Retailers must let the consumers decide on what they want to buy,” he said.

Zimbabwe is a member of African Cotton and Textile Industry Federation (Actif), a pan-African federation for developing the cotton value chain.

“One of the things that we have to our advantage as a country is access to free trade agreements. The European market pays for value; it’s not a price-mad market.

“Let us focus on that opportunity. As a landlocked country exports are an opportunity for us.

“The bureaucracy that our government puts us through is a problem but we must find a way to deal with it.

But don’t be scared; see it as an opportunity. We must be able to find our competitive markets and compete on those,” he said.

Youmans said Zimbabweans are strong and they should take this opportunity to stay focused and move forward.

“We are very quick to run ourselves down pointing out what we don’t have and what is bad. Does anybody remember what we went through in the last 10 years? No other country went through that and most of us are still here.

“That shows that we are doing something right but we are now in the US-dollar environment and we must move forward.

“While we were struggling to survive the rest of the world was moving forward.

“My advice is that we must act; if we sit still we will die, let us not sit still but let’s move forward,” he said.

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