With a location quotient of more than two within the city, clothing and textiles is Cape Town’s strongest manufacturing comparative advantage industry by some margin.
The clothing and textiles industry in Cape Town tends to focus more heavily on the production of wearing apparel and on high-fashion items. The industry continues to be a major employer in the Cape Town economy, employing 28 863 individuals – the second largest employer within the manufacturing sector. It is also the most labour-intensive sector outside tourism and the primary sector, meaning that the job return on investment tends to be higher than in other sectors (City of Cape Town, 2016).
The high concentration of retail head offices in Cape Town, (including Woolworths, the Foschini Group, Truworths, Pep and Cape Union Mart, among others) means that retailers and manufacturers can coordinate their activities to ensure the quickest possible response to changes in customers’ tastes and preferences. The added presence of a burgeoning fashion design industry within the city further enhances this advantage.
Cape Town’s clothing and textile industry is well served by organisations such as the Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster, Clotex, and the Cape Town Fashion Council, which operate at different points in the value chain but share the common vision of seeing the growth of the clothing and textiles industry within the city. The strong collaboration in the industry’s value chain and the presence of large and dynamic manufacturers in the city enable it to more easily adopt quick-response models than other regions in the country.
While, in terms of trade, Cape Town’s clothing and textile industry imports more than it exports, in recent years exports have flourished. Between 2014 and 2015 exports grew by 12.6%, driven by strong increases in exports to Namibia (Cape Town’s largest export market for clothing and textile products); Botswana and Swaziland (Wesgro, 2016). Exports to the United States, under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), has increased by 53.2%, making it the fastest growing of Cape Town’s top export markets.
Competitive advantages of the Clothing and Textiles industry in Cape Town
- The city’s proximity to major retailers (with head offices in Cape Town) to local designers and manufacturers creates a vertically integrated value chain which is better able to respond to fast changing fashion trends.
- There is a strong tradition of Cut-Make-Trim (CMT)-related skills (especially seamstresses) in Cape Town
- The ease of access to the port results in cheaper transportation costs for textile inputs.
- The sector is well-organised and supported through a number of government-funded sector bodies.
- The Department of Trade and Industry offers incentives and assistance through its Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme and the Competitiveness Improvement Programme.
- Cape Town is a design hub, with many of the major fashion designers basing themselves in the city.