2021 article

A retrospect on the US apparel industry: expert predictions and reality data

Kincade, D. H., & Annett-Hitchcock, K. E. (2021, May 18). RESEARCH JOURNAL OF TEXTILE AND APPAREL.

By: D. Kincade* & K. Annett-Hitchcock

author keywords: Apparel industry; Fashion industry; Apparel imports; KSA; Innovation; Technology; Employment; Training; Fashion management; Clothing; Manufacturing; Fashion; Apparel; Cut and sew; Retrospective
Source: Web Of Science
Added: June 14, 2021

Purpose In 1978, the once powerful US apparel industry was on the cusp of change, and the consulting firm KSA conducted a Delphi survey of apparel executives’ predictions into the 2000s. The purpose of this paper is to compare actual changes over the subsequent decades with these 1978 expert predictions and explore the accuracy/inaccuracy of these “educated guesses” (KSA, 1978, p. 1). Design/methodology/approach The chorographic method was used to analyze the report and document historical data. Chorography is “concerned with significance of place, regional characterization, [and] local history […]” (Rohl, 2012, p.1) and includes contextual settings and researcher input. Primary data were examined during each decade and included: industry literature, government documents and labor data. The researchers used content analysis to reduce and organize data. Findings Findings cover three decades of Southeast US apparel industry data including imports, employment, number of plants, size of plants and productivity. Predictions were inaccurate about imports, predicted to be minor in comparison with domestic production, which they actually surpassed. Predicted decrease in employment was similar to actual decrease but reasons were inaccurate. Change in number and size of plants were over-predicted and under-predicted. Reasons given by experts were automation and government intervention; in actuality, limited automation occurred with insignificant impact in contrast to outsourcing, which decimated employment in US plants. Steady increase in productivity was predicted when productivity often decreased. Originality/value Previous studies focus on the textile sector; studies of the apparel sector tend to be regional or topical. This study is more expansive and provides insight into predictions and changes made in the US apparel industry at a critical time in its near demise. With the current climate of global change and increased market uncertainty, insights from this study may provide direction for rethinking of the domestic apparel industry for the USA and other developed countries.