Gear for Team Canada Supporters Made in China
TORONTO – Canadian pride, made in China.
When Canada’s athletes make their mark this August at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, they’ll be wearing Canadian-made uniforms and sponsored by Hudson’s Bay Co.
But fans who wish to support the Canadian team by wearing similar HBC-brand shirts and apparel may be fooled if they think the clothes are made locally.
In fact, the replica apparel, which will appear in stores this week, an HBC spokesman confirmed, “are being made elsewhere, mostly in China.”
The company, however, didn’t respond to questions about its decision to outsource this line to Asia.
Henry Navarro, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion, said it would have just been as easy to get a homegrown garment manufacturer to produce the order — and if what HBC is selling is so-called Canadian pride, it should reflect that by keeping jobs in Canada.
— “It’s a matter of community-building and from that aspect, manufacturing elsewhere is detrimental to the image of Canada as a country and also of industry.”
— “There are manufacturers in Canada who may be a bit more expensive, but they might create products with good quality that nevertheless provide jobs and opportunities for Canadians to do and support the efforts of the team. This was a missed opportunity.”
— “There is a certain ongoing issue in Canada where people will pay more for local food than for local fashion and I think that’s problematic. China may have the facilities and the industrial might to do all of that, but we have it here, too. At the same time, people would feel better by setting an example — locally designed, locally made — and we’re supporting our national team.”
— “It’s very poignant knowing that those very significant portions of Canadian pride will be created elsewhere.”
Mark Manger, a University of Toronto economics professor, said Canada’s faltering textile industry would result in higher production costs than in China. Canadian-made apparel, therefore, would carry a higher price tag.
— “The important thing is that it should be designed in Canada. If this was made in Canada, very few people could afford it. It would be a luxury item. Simple fact is more people can afford it if it’s made in China and also, because it’s cheaper when it comes from China, there’s more money left for everyone to spend on other things, which is good for the Canadian economy.”
— “Because you can sell more items, you have a larger production run, which means you can probably pay a better designer in the first place — who would be Canadian-based. That way, more money is coming into the Canadian economy. It’s just coming to different people. If you make things where it’s cheapest, … the savings of that are shared between China and Canada and more money stays in the Canadian economy.”
— “The Canadian textile industry used to exist … but these jobs are largely gone. Making things in China because it’s cheaper there means the identical job disappears in Canada and people have to find a new job somewhere else in another industry. It’s not the problem that the job disappears, but that it’s hard for someone to find a new job.”
— “It would still make sense to buy things from China if it’s cheaper to get it there. There are certain things that they can’t make that only we can make, like natural resources and Canadian high-tech exports that we’re just better at making. We should be selling those.”
MADE IN CHINA NOT NECESSARILY CHEAPER
Bob Kirke, executive director of the Canadian Apparel Federation, said it’s false to immediately jump to the conclusion that companies can manufacture products for less in China. Some of the federation’s 300 members are producing the Canadian-made uniforms for Olympians, but not the clothing line available to consumers.
Q: Has HBC outsourced its line of consumer Olympic clothing in the past?
KIRKE: “In previous years, there have been opportunities for us to promote specific opportunities on behalf of Hudson’s Bay Co. or other uniform suppliers to the Olympics … (They) have not asked us to do so this year during this Olympiad. I think that’s possibly a missed opportunity on the part of the Bay.”
Q: Is producing products in China actually cheaper?
KIRKE: “I think there are many products in Canada where the difference in terms of cost in between what you can do here and what you can do in China is very small now. Costs in China have gone up. There’s not always a huge supply in Canada anymore because a lot of companies have downsized. At the same time, the costs themselves are not substantially different. You might have been talking 40%-50% a number of years ago; now you’re in the 10%-15% range. If you can limit the number of returns, or get the right colour, for example, then you have a better sell-through.”
Q: What do you think about HBC outsourcing to China?
KIRKE: “I’m saying that I’m not sure HBC has looked as closely as they might at some of those domestic opportunities. That’s the question for them — what’s been done? We shouldn’t just say everything should be made here, just as we shouldn’t say everything made in China is bad. But I think there are opportunities for well-managed supply chains to operate very well with domestic suppliers, especially in areas where you have a range of different products with not a huge amount of volume — so not like, two million pairs of jeans.”
Q: What should HBC do in the future in the spirit of Canadian garment manufacturers?
KIRKE: “I do believe that when those kind of contracts are tendered, it should be incumbent upon them (HBC) to look at every opportunity to produce those products here, especially because when you look at the difference in cost now, it’s not so different as it was four or five years ago.”