““As I am sure you are aware,” read the email, “the impact on retail will be vast.” It was only then, says Mostafiz Uddin, boss of Bangladeshi clothes manufacturer Denim Expert, that it fully dawned on him just how “vast” coronavirus was going to be for his business and his 2,000 employees, who stitch jeans for European high-street brands.
The note, from the UK fast-fashion retailer Peacocks, landed in Mr Uddin’s inbox on March 17 as several European countries and US states were entering lockdown. It explained that Peacocks would no longer be paying Denim Expert for any of the clothes it had ordered, including “stock already handed over”.
With shoppers forced to stay indoors, demand for new clothes has collapsed. Although some retailers are still operating online, revenue streams for many of the world’s largest companies have been wiped out, with rent and wages eating into cash supplies and stock piling up in warehouses.”