Sector profile

About the Cape clothing and textile industry

The South African clothing, textiles, footwear and leather (CTFL) industry is concentrated in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal regions. The industry has historically been at the centre of the Western Cape’s manufacturing sector and continues to be pivotal to socio-economic development in the province.

The Western Cape CTFL industry hosts a diverse range of firms active at every stage in the value chain, from large retailers through to small Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) operations. The province is home to the majority of the country’s major retailers, which presents local manufacturers with a comparative advantage in terms of speed, flexibility and customer relationship. These advantages are critical in the context of the global industry trend towards the Quick Response (QR) supply chain model. On the other hand the province does not offer as much capacity or capability as KwaZulu-Natal in terms of fabric production and finishing, which is a key area for future development.

Most CCTC members broke away from the consistent trend of shedding jobs that prevailed since the early 2000s, and have experienced consistent employment and sales growth since 2014. This change in fortune was driven by a combination of CCTC interventions in the form of best practice research, shared learnings and the introduction of lean manufacturing principles, and a government-supported programme to modernise machinery.

Clothing and textile production in South Africa

The CTFL industry is key to growing South Africa’s manufacturing sector. It accounts for around 14% of manufacturing employment in South Africa, facilitating an estimated 60 000 to 80 000 jobs and a contribution of around 8% to the country’s GDP (Industrial Development Corporation).

The sector suffered large setbacks at the start of the millennium in the face of strong competition from foreign markets where over 100 000 jobs were lost between 2002 and 2013. Recent years have seen the industry stabilise, with moderately positive growth forecasts anticipated for local manufacturing firms. Government sponsored programs have played a positive role in upgrading the competitiveness of South African firms through skills and technology development as well as a focus on instituting global best practices throughout the value chain.

The next steps for the South African CTFL sector are the deepening of lean production practices in order to maximise efficiency, and a move towards the Quick Response supply chain model in order to create a competitive advantage over foreign competition around flexibility and speed-to-market. Achieving these dual objectives will boost the competitiveness of South African products, enabling significant and sustainable growth in the sector.