Survey: Impact of coronavirus on UK manufacturers

Make it British surveyed UK fashion and textile manufacturers to find out if they have seen any impact to their business as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Many factories in China, where a large proportion of the world’s fashion brands and retailers source their products from, have been shut since January. Further delays to products being shipped have caused even more disruption.

So it’s not surprising that in our survey, 50% of UK manufacturers report an increase in new business enquiries linked to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus.

UK manufacturers coronavirus survey

The quicker turnaround that the UK manufacturers can offer means brands and high street retailers are looking to them to fill the gaps left by the delay in Chinese production.

Amongst the products that are being ordered are high summer stock such as dresses and swimwear, as well as the raw materials to make winter stock such as wool yarn and cloth.

Sewing factories are also being asked to make face masks, and one place we spoke was manufacturing pathogen containment isolation units for the NHS and MOD.

UK manufacturers coronavirus survey

Whilst the increase in enquiries for these manufacturers is a bitter-sweet result in tragic circumstances, many are cautious of taking on new customers. They fear that the work will be taken away from them again, once the Chinese factories reopen. 

They have had their fingers burnt in the past by retailers looking for a quick fix to supply chain issues and turning to UK manufacturers for a solution, often expecting to be given the same cost prices as they were paying the Chinese factories.

Fashion Enter factory in North London

Covid-19 has been a dual edge sword. There’s been a spike in sampling and we have opened two new accounts for bulk production almost immediately but the downside has been yarn supplies.

This in turn has created a further opportunity with retailers panic buying stock fabrics which is then coming to the UK manufacturers. Many knitters had bulk yarns in reserves. However these stocks are going to run out…so what then?

Surely this all points to a new type of collaboration between retailers and manufacturers and not before time. We are already aware of one retailer giving shares to their supply base binding them together. It’s a start but there’s a long way to go yet.” 

Jenny Holloway, Fashion Enter

Whilst the current influx of enquiries might be just a flash in the pan, one thing the coronavirus outbreak has shown the industry, is how fragile global supply chains are when something like this happens.

Has your supply chain been disrupted because of the coronavirus?

35% of the UK manufacturers we surveyed said their own supply chains had been disrupted because many of their raw materials come from China or Italy.

“A lot of UK manufacturers are relying on imported fabrics…The impact is growing and the prices of the raw materials has gone up by 4% already. The UK fabric manufacturers will get busy but they will have to source yarns from different countries and that may affect the prices too.”

Alkesh Kapadia, Barcode Design


Brands that manufacture locally and source their raw materials from the UK are in a much better position. When the whole supply chain is local, and is not reliant on crossing borders, it is much less vulnerable when something like this happens.

“Relieved that we manufacture in the UK, and use UK suppliers wherever possible. I would be extremely worried if I outsourced to China.”

Steff McGraph, Something Wicked

China has been the dominant player in manufacturing for the last 20 years, but this worldwide disaster could be the turning point that UK manufacturers need to make people realise that sourcing closer to home is a better option.

Some feel that Government should be doing more to help protect our UK manufacturing base.

“Government should be providing funding to increase capacity. So we can show customers how great it is to manufacturer from the UK. This will in-turn bring customers back. Once they see the speed and quality.”

Ihthshaam Sheikh, Ask Trading

The spread of the coronavirus is happening fast, and there is no doubt more disruption is to come.

But if there is one bitter sweet outcome to the tragic situation, it is that this might just be the wake up call that the industry needs to relook at the wonderful manufacturers that we have closer to home.

If you’re looking for UK manufacturers find them at our annual trade show Make it British Live!