JSE-listed apparel and homeware retail giant The Foschini Group (TFG) has expanded its local clothing manufacturing business to SA’s economic hub, with the opening of a new Prestige Clothing factory for the hearing impaired in Hillbrow, Joburg, on Monday.
The Cape Town-based group, which already has three Prestige Clothing factories in the Western Cape and one in KwaZulu-Natal, said the new factory is further evidence of TFG’s drive to create more jobs and grow local manufacturing.
While the Joburg factory is comparatively small in scale to Prestige’s other manufacturing facilities, it is set to create 47 initial jobs and has been set up through a collaborative partnership to create jobs for the hearing impaired.
According to the group, the newly launched factory increases its Prestige Clothing business to five factories, making it the largest local apparel manufacturer in South Africa.
The business unit employs around 2 470 permanent employees.
Through TFG’s involvement with the Proudly South Africa initiative, a valuable connection was made with Joburg’s St Vincent School of the Deaf in 2019.
“Like elsewhere in our country, the school had many learners leaving but unable to find jobs, further challenged by the fact they are deaf,” the group noted.
“TFG partnered with the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing SETA and the Thandeka Vocational Education Trust — an accredited industry training provider, to train school leavers from St Vincent’s. TFG’s Prestige Clothing, Bidvest and Berzacks all assisted by joining the partnership and providing a modern working environment for the learners,” it said.
“Many people living with disabilities still face barriers when it comes to employment opportunities. Upskilling and creating local employment for them was a particular focus area for TFG [Africa] over the last few years,” Graham Choice, managing director of TFG’s merchandise supply chain pointed out.
“The first intake of 23 learners will complete an NQF Level 2 CTFL manufacturing learnership in October 2021. An additional 24 learners are also currently on the programme and will complete their learnership in 2022. We hope to enrol our third group of learners in 2022,” added Choice.
Minister of the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (dtic) Ebrahim Patel hailed the initiative during the launch of the new Joburg factory on Monday.
“I welcome the efforts by TFG to build a more inclusive economy, providing skills and work opportunities for the hearing-impaired,” he said.
“The industry partnership is about building the dynamism of local factories that can create more jobs, supply competitively-priced goods to consumers and provide a fair wage for workers and a fair return to shareholders,” added Patel.
TFG noted in its statement that it has appointed more than 100 unemployed people living with disabilities into learnerships across the business so far this year.
“Through this programme, learners with a long-term or recurring physical or mental impairment are being upskilled through various 12-month learnership programmes and gainfully employed,” it said.
“Over the past five years, TFG has worked with the South African government, the dtic especially, to strategically create a diversified and agile local supply chain. This investment reduced its reliance on China and other international suppliers.”
“This focused strategy has led to an increase in the contribution of locally manufactured products for the group’s retail brands [such as Foschini, Markham and Totalsports],” TFG added.
According to the group, more than 80% of all TFG merchandise came from the East five years ago.
“Today, locally manufactured textiles have grown to a meaningful 37%, and this will increase exponentially over the next few years,” it said.
“Evidence of this strategy can be seen in the retailer’s expansion of their Prestige Maitland and Caledon factories. Together with the launch of three additional hubs, they are collectively projected to employ 5 000 workers by 2026,” TFG added.