Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
ONE of the country’s leading textile companies, Archer Clothing Manufacturers has since the beginning of the year employed an additional 600 workers, buoyed by improved production and exports.
Archer Clothing managing director Mr Jeremy Youmans said part of the 600 workers filled the gap that was left after 400 were retrenched last year.
After retrenching 400 of its 631 workers, the company was further forced to reduce its working days from five to four a week as its business fortunes continued to slide due to a drop in local orders and export competitiveness which had constrained its ability to grow export orders.
“We now have 18 lines operating from the six we started the year with. This has led to an additional 600 people being employed. We are currently working on increasing this (sewing lines) by over 100 percent again. We are in the process of fabricating some of the areas in the factory and are ordering machinery,” said Mr Youmans.
After creditors of Archer Clothing Manufacturers approved its take-over by Harare-based Paramount Garments in 2015, saving it from liquidation, the company had projected to employ 850 workers by year 2016.
Mr Youmans said the company was working on training more skilled staff as part of its efforts to reduce the gap left due to skills flight.
“We need to employ significant numbers of skilled staff to achieve the growth but we are not sure if they are available, this will slow the growth down.
We are setting up a training school to develop these skills. We are working on ways to finance this growth as it is substantial and will require a lot of resources. We hope we will be fully supported in doing so,” he said.
Mr Youmans said production capacity at the company’s leather factory had doubled.
“We have doubled the capacity of the leather factory. We are focusing on making leather gloves and other protective items for export. It is progressing well but we need to invest in more machinery to smooth out the production process,” said Mr Youmans.
Archer Clothing ventured into leather production as part of a diversification strategy aimed at expanding its business.
Mr Youmans said designation of Bulawayo as a Special Economic Zone would go a long way towards improving the competitiveness of the company’s products on the export markets as well as attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country.
“All interventions which makes doing business easier and more competitive are positive and so should this one (SEZ) be.
“Zimbabwean business generally struggle to compete in the international market on price, and we are failing to attract some of the FDI to make our operations more efficient and competitive. So if making Bulawayo a SEZ leads to FDI being received and better trading conditions, it will be a great success for all in Bulawayo,” he said. -@DNsingo