Published: Friday, March 22, 2013

Despite odds, US garment retailer hikes orders by 25pc

Sears Holdings' official pins hopes on Bangladesh after visiting factories

Jay Burdett

Jay Burdett

When foreign buyers of Bangladeshi garments are concerned about the country’s growing political unrest, a US-based retailer has decided to increase its orders by 25 percent to $375 million this year, an official said.
Jay Burdett, vice president and managing director of the retailer — Sears Holdings Global Sourcing, said this to The Daily Star in an interview on Wednesday.
Burdett left Dhaka yesterday after a five-day visit at a time when foreign buyers and their local suppliers are worried about the confrontational politics and frequent shutdowns in Bangladesh.
“I came to Bangladesh to see whether our suppliers are on track to deliver our goods on time. I’m happy to see that the factories are operating in full swing even on the hartal days,” said Burdett.
Now he plans to send his headquarters a positive signal on Bangladesh.
However, the retailer still considers shutdown as a threat to the country’s apparel industry. More confrontations and negative publicity would cost the country heavily, he said.
“Though productions in garment factories are on despite strikes (hartal), there was no transportation and delivery, which delays shipment,” he said.
Local exporters also complain that shipping lines often do not receive the goods in case of delay.
Khandakar Mohammed Saiful Alam, managing director of Nassa Group, a leading garment maker, gave an example, saying: “Though the ship is at the port and will take a few more days to depart, it doesn’t want to receive the goods.”
Buyers instruct the ships not to take goods beyond the deadline, said the official of Nassa, which sells around $100 million worth of garments to Sears a year.
Burdett said many garments are seasonal and remain on display for a few weeks only. He said two to three days’ delay in delivering goods is okay, but suppliers should not prolong the delivery by a few weeks.
“If a supplier tells us in advance about the delay, we can be flexible for a few days,” the official of Sears said.
With an annual turnover of $40 billion, Sears Holdings is a leading integrated retailer with more than 2,600 retail stores in the US and Canada.  It is also a leading home appliance retailer as well as a leader in tools, lawn and garden, fitness equipment and automotive repair and maintenance.
“A delay in delivery hampers our distribution and marketing chain,” Burdett said.
Sears has no plan to reduce business in Bangladesh. Rather the visit of Burdett at a turbulent time will reinforce the ties and increase the orders.
“Bangladesh is a very important and competitive market for our apparel products. We’ll increase our orders in the days to come,” Burdett said.

sajjad@thedailystar.net