By  on December 27, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- The tough times in apparel are hurting the West as much as the East.

This city's apparel manufacturers are feeling the pinch just like their New York cousins. For local vendors, the events of Sept. 11 and the recession have created a painful game of limbo -- as retailers demand lower and lower prices, producers are finding it tougher to shimmy under the bar without losing their footing. And the poor Christmas at retail is expected to only increase the pressure on manufacturers on both coasts, further raising the specter of cutbacks, bankruptcies and closures this spring.

Los Angeles-based companies generally are not in as perilous a state as New York's Chinatown factories, which have been severely impacted by the recession and attacks on the nearby World Trade Center. Still, many manufacturers here are struggling and are sharply cutting their workforce as a result.

Los Angeles and New York are the top apparel manufacturing cities in the country and those sectors have seen severe job losses in recent years. Nationwide, apparel jobs fell by 11,000 in November to 532,000, or 79,000 less jobs then a year ago.

The pressure has forced companies to pare back everywhere they can: reducing head count, curtailing travel allowances and even getting frugal about office supplies. The list of companies laying off workers includes such large players as Guess, BCBG and Tarrant Apparel Group.

Rob Greenspan, managing partner of Moss Adams, an accounting firm with 300 apparel clients, said apparel vendors' sales volumes have dropped an average of 10 to 15 percent this year.

"Some can handle that and make cutbacks," he said. "But for others, a 10 to 15 percent sales drop throws them into a loss position."

Talk of possible bankruptcies has percolated through the industry. Many analysts predict that the usual spate of post-holiday filings will be more severe this year.

Vernon, Calif.-based BCBG, which in August received a $10 million cash infusion from Nine West co-founder Vincent Camuto, has remained slow to pay its suppliers.

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