Under Armor follows rivals and pledges to pay apparel manufacturers in full

Sports brand Under Armor pledged to pay its factories in full and on time for all apparel and footwear in production when the coronavirus pandemic hit. It joins rivals Nike and Adidas in the growing list of brands agreeing to do the same.

“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Under Armor continues to pay its manufacturers the full negotiated price for all merchandise, completed and in-process (in-process is defined as post-cut),” a spokesperson said. of the company by e-mail.

In March, as consumers were in lockdown, a number of major apparel companies canceled and delayed payments on billions of dollars of already-shipped or nearly-completed inventory, leaving manufacturers in debt and struggling to cover factory workers’ wages. clothing. Others have come back and demanded huge discounts, pushing some vendors to the brink of bankruptcy.

Although Under Armor has never been directly linked to order cancellations, workers’ rights advocates have pushed them to publicly pledge to pay for orders, after some manufacturers complained the company was delaying shipments. , said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, which follows brand commitments to suppliers.

“There will be no discounts, no cancellations, so they will pay 100% of the orders,” Nova says, referring to Under Armor’s pledge.

Oworkers in an Indonesian factory, PT Kaho Indah Citragarmentclaimed their pay was cut in half after Under Armor cut orders, according to United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a student activist group that is in communication with garment workers. Under Armor sources most of its supplies from Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, according to public brands List of suppliers.

“This is a huge victory for the garment workers we stand in solidarity with in places like Indonesia,” USAS campaign coordinator Ana Jimenez said via email.

Under Armor and Nike have been targeted by campus activists in recent weeks as licensing deals with college athletic departments are a key element of the activity of these companies. After Nike publicly agreed to pay for the orders, USAS circulated an online petition and launched a hashtag campaign (#WorkersOverUnderLove) to pressure Under Armor to follow suit. (As I wrote in my last columnI’ve joined calls for brands to pay for orders in full.)

Before the pandemic, Under Armor worked for increase its profitability and stock price, but overall sales have fallen 23% in the first quarter of 2020, jeopardizing a recovery. It’s significant that Under Armour, despite its financial difficulties, is paying its factories and not asking suppliers for price cuts on finished goods, Nova says. “It sends a clear message to the industry that it is possible to pay suppliers in full despite obvious financial difficulties, and that this is the practice that every responsible brand will engage in.”

As consumers reassess their values ​​in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a question lingers about the impact of canceled orders on long-term brand reputation. Nowadays, 14 brands and retailers have publicly agreed to pay for all orders in full and on time, including fast fashion giants H&M and Zara and American heavyweights PVH, which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and VF Corporation, which owns The North Face, Vans and Timberland.

In Belgium this week, after months of confinement, long lines formed outside fast fashion chains, including Primark and CALIFORNIA, who paid for some, but not all, of their orders. But the rush to fast fashion chains doesn’t reflect all consumers, says Tara St. James, founder of Re:Source library, a sustainable fashion consultancy. In particular, she predicts that young shoppers are turning away from large chains in favor of independent companies capable of guaranteeing environmental and social responsibility. “I think the rise of smaller, more transparent brands will save the apparel industry.

But for the factories to which the big brands still owe money (the debts amount to up to $10 million in a factory and more than $3 billion in Bangladesh alone), there is a singular hope for the future: to be paid for the clothes they have already made.

Michael O. Stutler