Human Geography in Our Grandparents' Research Paper

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The only two exceptions on the map were Peru and Turkey. These countries only produced a single garment each. Peru perhaps could be viewed as an extension of the Latin American cluster save for its position on the other side of the equator. Turkey is a true outlier, with no other representation either from Europe or from the Middle East, despite centuries of advanced clothing production in both areas.

There are two main factors that influence these patterns. The first is the availability of cheap labor. Garment production is a labor intensive process, such that labor is the major cost driver of clothing. This has in turn convinced companies to offshore their production. The clusters tend to be in areas where wages are low -- Central America, China, India, and Southeast Asia. Canada is an anomaly here, as the only other First World economies noted were the United States and Hong Kong, both minor players.

The second main factor is trade agreements. Garments are frequently subject to tariffs, quotas and other trade barriers. This has opened up the opportunity for a number of clusters. If China, or India, is subject to restrictions and consistently bumps up on their quota, then clothing marketers may seek to hedge their risks by sourcing from other countries. Thus we see the emergence of clusters in South East Asia and in Latin America, where firms can source clothing from multiple small countries and hedge against running out of quota space.

These garments were sourced mainly in North America. The channel by which they arrived to me was likely fairly similar in most cases. The fabric was supplied to the country of production. The garment was produced for a North American marketer. From there, it was shipped by sea to a Pacific Coast port. At that point it made its way to the warehouse and ultimately the store.

The stores for the most part were chain stores. Each chain store sources its products from a variety of regions. Some chains may prefer to utilize specific regions, in particular if they have relationship with specific suppliers that produce multiple clothing types.
For some types of clothing, for example, there does appear to be specialization. The shoes all came from China -- clearly China has a cluster of shoe factories that are able to meet Western demand. Outdoor clothing mainly came from Canada. This indicates a specialization on the part of that country in the production of specialized clothing. Labor cost is higher in Canada, but high end outerwear companies are more concerned with performance. Their prices more than make up for the higher production costs, and it is performance that drives sales.

I learned through this study that the garment industry is built in clusters around the globe. For general apparel, two or three regions appear to dominate the global apparel manufacturing industry. Historically important areas including Europe, the U.S. And the Middle East are almost entirely absent from the modern wardrobe. Canada is the only Western nation that has maintained such an industry, due to specialization. The clusters appear to be based on a number of factors, but the presence of such clusters indicates that when one nation develops a specialty in clothing manufacturing, neighboring nations are able to capture some of that business as well. China and India dominate Asia, but the rest of the Asian clothing industry is located in between those two countries. Nations outside of that zone do not produce clothing. There is reason to believe, however, that in addition to low labor costs, established trade relations with Western countries are also important to the development of these clusters, as is a low level of industrialization. Africa is not represented despite low labor costs, because it lags Asia and Central America in other key determinants of a clothing industry. In order for other regions to enter this industry, they must meet all of the necessary criteria, not just one.

Appendix: Full Survey Results

Country

Total # of items

China

12

Canada

5

India

5

Thailand

4

Indonesia

3

Hong Kong….....

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