2002 Recap: Trade Partners, Discount Stores Lead Recovery

The past year saw flagging consumer confidence, a weak economy and the threat—and then the consequence—of a strike at West Coast ports impede any true economic recovery for the apparel and textile industry in California.

Still, the news was not all bleak. Consumers continued to spend, although they focused their spending at discount stores, with lowprice giants Wal-Mart and Target continuing to post steady gains. Likewise, fast-growing Kohl’s Corp. had a strong year—boding well as the retailer prepares to enter the Southern California market. Still, it was not just a large-retailer’s game in 2002. There were some specialty stores that revamped and turned their fortunes around, too.

And while trading partners such as Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean Basin countries continued to produce much of the apparel for U.S. manufacturers, these countries also consumed the largest share of U.S. goods.

On the employment front, California apparel and textile manufacturers continued to shed jobs—particularly textile mills, which lost 1,000 jobs between April, when the sector had 15,700 employees, and November, when there were 14,700. But apparel employment, which had declined from a high of 90,500 in March to a low of 88,700 in July, climbed back up to 89,500 in November. And Orange County apparel employment held steady at about 20,300 jobs.