The 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti on Jan. 12 brought business to a standstill, shut down the principal seaport near the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as temporarily suspended flights at the capital's Toussaint L'Overture airport as relief efforts arrived.
Apparel makers, who in recent years have shifted production to Haiti to take advantage of a U.S. free-trade program, were using factories outside of Haiti to make up for production that could be sidelined for weeks. Haiti is currently the 17th-largest supplier by volume of apparel products to the U.S., with exports worth $424 million between January and October of 2009, up 22% from the same period a year ago, according to The American Apparel and Footwear Association.
Hanesbrands Inc., the parent of Champion, said three of the four Haitian factories it uses were expected to be affected by the earthquake. Two of the contractors reported little to no damage, with the other reporting some structural damage. The contractors must also deal with damage to roads, bridges and power systems, at least on a temporary basis. The company said it is using its factories in the Dominican Republic, Central America and Asia to fill in orders.
Gildan Activewear said initial reports showed that two out of the three factories it uses were intact while the third had suffered substantial damage. Gildan its inventory was strong enough to resolve any supply problems, but it was also increasing production in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Meanwhile, several industry organizations rallied around the relief effort. The American Apparel & Footwear Association members are donating goods to Kids in Distressed Situations Inc. The Outdoor Industry Association is working with AmeriCares to gather and deliver relief supplies and assistance. Soles4Souls Inc. is putting together complete relief kits that will include 100,000 pairs of new shoes, food, medical supplies, water, blankets and baby products. Hanesbrands donated $25,000 to CARE's Haiti Emergency Response Fund.