Maintaining Local Production in the Outerwear Industry
|In domains||Clothing, Local Economic Development, Worker Friendly|
Canada Goose is a Canadian manufacturer of extreme weather and performance outerwear that sells to markets around the globe. In 2008, sales figures were around 20 million CAN.
Canada Goose products have become the outerwear of choice for the Canadian Arctic Rangers, scientists of the American National Science Foundation in Antarctica, Canadian Special Military, First Air - Canada’s largest northern airline, as well as the majority of smaller northern Canadian airlines and many other people and organizations who have come to trust this reliable, high-quality product.
Apart from being functional, many of the jackets are of stylish design and have caught on with celebrities and fashionistas in New York, Stockholm, Milan or Tokyo.
Family-owned and operated from Toronto Canada since 1957, the company faced the dilemma of moving production to overseas contractors in the early nineties. Their strategic decision to persist with local and integrated production of garments, despite an overwhelming market trend pulling in the opposite direction, has generated a positive social return, reinforced corporate reputation and added value to the brand, especially in luxury markets.
Metro Sportswear stands out as a responsible company in its sector because, unlike almost every other outerwear manufacturer these days, it has kept its production facilities in Canada and continues to pay factory workers a decent wage ($15.00/hr. on average).
In the late eighties/early nineties, the Canada Goose manufacturing facility was winding down its production, like many textile facilities across North America. At that time, management had to decide whether to shut down operations entirely, outsource manufacturing overseas or to put new energy towards stimulating sales and keeping production local. Unlike most of its competitors, Canada Goose chose the latter option.
Money was invested into newer production facilities and efforts were made to develop the brand as a quality upscale product with international appeal. With a skilled and loyal workforce (some had been with the company for decades), Canada Goose could assure the highest quality of its down filled parkas and the ‘Made in Canada’ authenticity of the brand open doors to overseas markets.
The company’s sales rose greatly in the last 10 years and a larger workforce was sought, still in the Toronto area. The company now overseas two external production units in Canada and maintains a regular presence at these locations.
As with most of the textile workforce in North America, workers are generally older and few young people choose to pursue this line of work. It is therefore an ongoing challenge to think of how to find a renewable local workforce.
Paying decent North American wages to garment workers considerably raises the costs of production when compared those of competitors paying subcontracted production costs overseas. The locally-made products can therefore be competitive only in high end markets where there is enough of a margin to absorb the production costs.
Keeping production in Canada has allowed Canada Goose to build a brand based on the authenticity of Canadian know-how and experience born of cold climates. The Canada Goose brand, like other high end products such as Rolex watches and Land Rover vehicles, is coveted because it is made by those who personally know the conditions the parkas will be exposed to.
The ethical and environmental added values of local production have also opened doors for the company to very advantageous relationships with select retailers such as Sporting Life in Canada and the Sundance Resort store in the United States. In both cases, retailers were attracted not only by the quality products but also, and maybe especially, by the values behind the brand.
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