The well documented struggle of the apparel industry in Downtown Los Angeles, proverbially known as the “jobber” market, is only becoming more critical with time as recent findings revealed a shocking number of failing businesses.
As of this year, 1,300 apparel businesses are currently operating, per Korean-American Apparel Manufacturers Association’s (KAMA) recently published biannual report. The previous report, published in 2014, revealed that 1,756 apparel manufacturers were in business, hinting that 456 of them have closed in the last two years.
The report, which serves as something of apparel industry’s Yellow Pages in L.A., contains contact information of Korean-American-run businesses within the city’s Fashion District. The 26 percent decrease in the number of existing businesses is evidently a reflection of just how badly the industry is struggling to make ends meet.
Even businesses that specialize in manufacturing accessories, including bags and shoes, are on a decline, as only 173 of them remain open compared to 216 two years ago.
The KAMA’s past reports show that apparel businesses owned by Korean-Americans were growing larger until 2014. From 2010 to 2012, the number of businesses hiked from 958 to 1,447.
Presumably, the sudden decline of the apparel industry in recent years was primarily triggered by the decreasing number of Mexican and Central American clients after the U.S. government launched a federal investigation of the industry’s allegedly widespread illegal transactions and employment of undocumented residents.
However, some of those still in the business suggest that the KAMA’s recent report is inaccurate, as many Korean-American businesses in the industry have relocated to other areas around the neighborhood to avoid the rising cost of operating in the expensive downtown area.
The KAMA also admitted that the total number of Korean-American businesses would be significantly higher if the statistics in the report contained apparel manufactures located outside of the Fashion District.
“Jobber businesses have struggled this year and last year,” said KAMA chairman Young-ki Jang. “Some businesses have closed entirely, which means many have lost their jobs, but business is getting better now with some companies recently starting to hire more employees. We remain hopeful for the upcoming year.”
By Moon Ho Kim