Growing quickly tp compete against imports

Peter Blond & Associates, a manufacturer of tailored ladies' garments, had a different challenge to overcome when compared to other companies in the local industry - it was growing faster than it could afford.

"The increasing number of imports from China forced our hand a bit as we had to start growing quicker to compete with them. Unfortunately, we were eventually constrained by how the commercial banks lend money," says Ekkehard Oelz, chief executive officer of Peter Blond & Associates.

He says that when the commercial bank Peter Blond & Associates had been working with started talking with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) last year, the manufacturer jumped at the opportunity to get into separate discussions for funding.

"Being able to grow and getting the funding to do so was massively important for us. The IDC saw the value and really helped us with the assistance we needed.
Their model is based on creating jobs and modernising equipment at manufacturers," says Oelz.

Oelz says that the IDC also supported the company with additional equipment that has given it the impetus to provide jobs to more than 2 000 people from local communities.

To supplement its plant in Cape Town, Peter Blond & Associates also has a facility in Lesotho. This allows it to invest money back into South Africa by cross-subsidising the two operations. Any profits made from Lesotho immediately get re-invested into its local operations.

"Our retail clients like Woolworths and Truworths have also helped us to create a balance between the two manufacturing plants. But it is through the support of the IDC that we have been able to survive through the challenging times of recent years."

He feels that the IDC is fulfilling a significant role in making the local manufacturing industry more competitive. This is especially important, given the level of joblessness in South Africa.

"By providing opportunities to unskilled labour, thanks to the investment made by the IDC, we are giving people skills they can use to move up the value chain. The challenge is to create opportunities consistently and give people salaries so that they can put food on the table."

According to Oelz, there are still many communities that have zero employment. If the sector is to grow, then he feels that this needs to be addressed.

And with manufacturers offering similar services, he says that those operating in niche sectors will be better positioned for client and employment growth in the future.

"The fact that we are a niche manufacturer has enabled us to continue playing this game and grow really well. But we will not rest on our laurels and will continue to innovate and grow."

This article was supplied and approved by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. It forms part of a larger supplement.

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