Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
BULAWAYO textile company, Archer Clothing Manufacturers has re-employed part of the workforce it retrenched last year buoyed by a surge in exports.
Archer Clothing managing director Mr Jeremy Youmans said increased production capacity has prompted the company to augment its workforce.
“We have been rebuilding the production at Archer this year. So far we have employed 236 people this year and this takes the total employment in the clothing factory there to 538,” he said.
In July last year the company was forced to retrench 400 of its 631 workers and reduced 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.
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 would further employ more people at its leather products factory. Archer Clothing ventured into leather production as part of a diversification strategy aimed at expanding its business.
“We are also increasing the leather factory we set up in the Archer premises. It currently employs 20 people,” he said.
The company has also set sights at increasing its sewing lines to 19 before the end of this year.
“The factory is now operating on 14 sewing lines, up from six at the beginning of the year. This is the maximum that we have had operating at Archer.
We have started to renovate another area for production and we hope to have this operational before the end of the year. This area will hold another five sewing lines,” said Mr Youmans.
He said the company’s exports are trending at 15 percent largely due to improved orders from the region.
“Our exports are up by 10 percent of last year’s figures and trending at 15 growth. The biggest areas are in the region, with growth in Zambia and Mozambique particularly. Germany is still a significant market for us,” said Mr Youmans.
The company is further exploring other export markets as it seeks to keep its balance sheet healthy.
“We are developing customers in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Tanzania and see these as good opportunities. Recently we have had strong interest from South Africa for the leather wear we are producing in Bulawayo, hence the need to grow its capacity,” said Mr Youmans.
The takeover of Archer Clothing, although sanctioned by the High Court in Bulawayo in February 2015, following approval from creditors’ meetings in the same court, was strongly contested by CBZ, one of the large creditors of the company (in provisional liquidation). However, following a Supreme Court ruling in favour of the process, and the withdrawal of the last outstanding actions from the courts, the take-over is now complete.
“The future of Archer and its employees has been made more certain. We are now progressing with further development of its service provision via the retail outlet at the premises and the refurbishment of the property in general,” said Mr Youmans.
Affirmative Action Group (AAG) national vice-president Mr Sam Ncube expressed satisfaction at the rate at which Archer Clothing has managed to turn around its fortunes and further hinted that the economic empowerment pressure group played a significant part in preventing Archer Clothing from being liquidated.
“For starters, in 2015 CBZ out of all the creditors wanted Archer Clothing to be liquidated. AAG tried by all means to stop CBZ from having the company closed. These companies owe money to these banks but it can be moratorium for these businesses to strive if they aren’t liquidated,” said Mr Ncube.
He said there was a need for banks to play a role in reviving ailing companies instead of contributing to their demise.
“Some of these businesses (banks) are content with quick gains and quick wins as you will notice that these debts are pursued by lawyers. They should realise that they are not doing good to anyone but are destroying the economy. We should develop a spirit of patriotism, helping each other to develop further. As you can see, now the company (Archer Clothing) is growing but there are other people who have a wrong mindset of wanting to see other people not prosper in life. We therefore urge the banks to try and accommodate these companies for the better of the economy,” said Mr Ncube.