Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Swazi was moving the majority of its production offshore. The company plans to manufacture 13 of 80 garments in Thailand. We apologise for the error.
Outdoor clothing label Swazi has announced that it will move some of its business offshore to manufacture garments in Thailand.
Swazi has been manufacturing its hunting and fishing garments in New Zealand for 25 years but company founder and managing director Davey Hughes says the label has struggled to keep up with demand over the past 18 months.
"The solution that we've come up with is to move basically our entire production floor over into the technical area," Hughes said in video posted on YouTube.
Hughes said the Levin-based company had not laid off its local production staff and that they would move to make only the "technical" garments. Workers in Thailand would make its basic ranges, including base layers, thermals and fleeces.
"Over the years we've really held fast to the fact that every single item that we made was made right here in New Zealand but the fact of the matter is for us to keep up with that demand ... we are going to have to take some of those basic products offshore."
Hughes said the company chose to move production to Thailand to "maintain the quality" and increase manufacturing volumes, not to cut costs. However, he said there would be a price reduction on some of the garments as a result.
Swazi expects the cost of manufacturing garments in Thailand to decrease by between 25 and 30 per cent.
Production for the first seven garments would move to Thailand within the next month, he said. The production of six other garments will move offshore in six months time, taking the total garments made overseas to 13 out of 80.
Hughes told the Herald the company had employed an additional eight staff in the past year in an attempt to increase manufacturing volumes but was still not able to keep up with demand.
It took between three to four years to train an employee to make specialist high performance garments such as its farming range, windproof garments and helicopter rescue suits, he said.
"Our production manager was saying 'Look, we can't keep up with the current demand and you want to add another three garments into this range, it just can't happen', so that's been the driving force behind why we have made this move."
Swazi has been vocal about its manufacturing and keeping production locally in New Zealand to create jobs for New Zealanders.
On its website, it says: "To us, creating jobs for people who live in our town is pretty much the best community-oriented thing we can do. It's bloody awesome to see people develop pride in what they do every day to earn a crust.
"It's much more rewarding to watch people grow than to watch a bank balance grow, because bank balances just get bigger – people get better," the website states.
"We honestly don't get why someone would deny their own family, friends and neighbours a job just to make a couple of extra bucks on a T-shirt."
Ben Kepes, owner of rival Christchurch-based clothing brand Cactus Outdoor, said Hughes had been passionate about New Zealand manufacturing for years but said it was still possible to manufacture large volumes of garments in this country.
"Davey has always been a strong proponent for keeping employment in New Zealand and retaining local manufacturing and it's great to hear that at least some of the Swazi line will still be made here. However, while no-one should think for a minute that it's an easy challenge, it's a shame that, rather than trying to scale the business locally and being a part of rebuilding a once-proud heritage of domestic manufacturing, they succumb to the easier option of moving offshore," Kepes said.
Kepes said his company had been manufacturing clothing in New Zealand for more than 25 years.
"[Cactus] has been focused on keeping manufacturing here in New Zealand and we believe that changes in technology, consumer buying habits and a broader focus on the impacts of manufacturing mean that right now is actually a really good time to double down on making locally."
Hughes said it was a tough call to take manufacturing offshore but operating in a small town like Levin with a population of about 30,000 made it difficult to meet production demand.
"[Kepes] is in a town with around 20 times the population so there's a lot more staff that he can call on in a place like Christchurch compared to what we can."
Swazi had been weighing up the move to Thailand for about a year, he said.