Fund backs reinvigorated rag trade

Industrial property in Manchester is to benefit from a new £12.8m Textile Investment Fund to help accelerate the recent recovery in the city's textiles manufacturing base, under plans to be discussed by Greater Manchester Combined Authority on Friday.

A programme of activity aimed at repatriating the rag trade includes measures to improve skills at all ages and invest in fast-growing companies.

The measures include:

  • Loans and grants for 48 Greater Manchester textile manufacturers with potential for immediate growth, firms already identified
  • Map supply chain into Lancashire and West Yorkshire to reduce fragmentation of sector and share capacity for dealing with large customers
  • Establish five training academies embedded in most successful companies
  • Create an International Centre of Textile Manufacturing Innovation & Excellence
  • Launch new trade fair and a regular Manchester Fashion Weekender to replace Manchester Fashion Week which no longer exists

Mike Emerich, chief executive of New Economy, the policy advisory body to Greater Manchester authorities, said in his report to Friday's meeting of GMCA that the UK manufactured textiles market had grown since 1990, and accelerated in the past five years.

He added: "Growth is being driven by demand for exports for British made products especially with the growing middle class in the Far East and Asia."

The New Economy paper follows six months of preparation by the Alliance Project, led by Lord David Alliance, chairman of home shopping company N Brown. The project gathered data from 16 national retailers and 140 local manufacturers, finding demand outstrips current supply for UK products.

The Alliance Project team met with Business Secretary Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury. The government "tentatively committed" to provide £3m to run a national careers campaign, roll out supply chain mapping and host a trade fair promoting the industry. Match funding will be sought from private partners.

GMCA said it expects to spend £1.2m a year running the programme in addition to the £12.8m investment pot sourced from Regional Growth Fund Round 4.

N Brown has pledged to increase the proportion of British products it sells from 1% to 5%. Online retailer BooHoo will help launch the Manchester Fashion Weekender. One unnamed large textile manufacturer has committed £75,000 to the project running costs.

The increase in demand for UK manufactured textiles is likely to increase due to the trend in the market for shorter lead times, rising overseas costs and the market demand for supply closer to market, Emerich continued.

According to KPMG, textile manufacture is most prevalent in areas of greatest long-term and youth unemployment and ethnic populations, offering the opportunity for a rebalancing of regional economies, especially given Greater Manchester's demographic. Manchester's textile market has pockets of concentration in Rochdale and east Manchester among others, often led by Asian family businesses.

KPMG said manufactured textiles were worth £9bn last year to the UK driven by a largely micro supply chain.

Emerich said: "This presents a game-changing opportunity for Manchester to build on its existing textiles base and to create a critical mass of activity that would make Manchester the centre of a reinvigorated industry. It has the potential to create and grow businesses and jobs at scale, with Manchester becoming the leading centre of teaching and training, nationally and internationally, to service the huge demand for UK based textile manufacture."

There are 8,000 people employed directly in textiles in the city, plus a large number with latent skills in the labour market. The city also has the largest textile related graduate and post-graduate courses in Europe.

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