Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by email
Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Apparel Sector in Barbados was once a very important one in the provision of female employment and the generation of much-needed foreign exchange. The consistent erosion of preferential trading arrangements has sent the sector into a nose-dive that government policy and interventions have tried to buffer for decades.  A sector that once earned as much as BDS $70 million in foreign exchange a year in the early 1980’s, now generates just BDS $0.2 million and employment levels that topped 4,000 now stand at 163 persons in 2019.

The only way forward is to pivot and innovate. Several trends in the global arena are shaping the way forward. The increased digitalization of the sector now means that more consumers are making purchases online and Barbados is no exception. The rise in size-inclusive fashion and active wear are also trends to watch closely. Social consciousness and sustainability have become very important areas that customers pay attention to before making buying choices, and changing attitudes to “fast fashion” and ownership are developments that local garment makers need to consider as they try to keep their heads above water.

Despite this, several opportunities still exist in the sector. The CARIFORUM-EU EPA offers opportunities for duty-free, quota-free access to European markets and has provision for cumulation for sourcing raw materials outside of Barbados. The Barbadian Diaspora also has the potential to generate significant levels of foreign exchange for local producers once these market opportunities and connections are properly leveraged. Also, since Barbados cannot compete with low-priced apparel, offering high valued added, high-end apparel (sometimes referred to as couture apparel) capitalizing on Sea Island Cotton and Barbados Black Belly Sheep leather, for instance, could be a way to diversify and reposition the sector and its offerings.