AUSTRALIA’S BRADMILL ON THE BLOCK

Byline: Arthur Hagopian

SYDNEY, Australia — An intensely competitive domestic market, imports of low-cost Asian apparel, and changing fashions have combined to push Australian textile and apparel maker Bradmill into receivership.
The Melbourne, Australia-based denim and canvas maker, which owns the Pelaco and Whitmont shirt brands, has accrued losses of more than $7 million, despite federal government subsidies of some $15 million over the past three years, the company’s receiver, Mark Korda, of Arthur Andersen, revealed. (Dollar figures have been converted at the current exchange rates.)
Korda said he would be looking to sell the business, which has sites in Victoria and employs more than 900 people, some of whom have been with the company for 40 years.
Korda said that until an acceptable buyer has been found, it would be business as usual at Bradmill. Victoria’s minister for manufacturing, Rob Hulls, indicated that the company would be sold as a going concern.
However, union leaders noted that workers are collectively owed some $12 million, which the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union intends to insure that it is paid.
Korda noted that Bradmill’s volume had slumped to about $60 million from about $85 million since it had been purchased from Sara Lee Corp. 10 years ago.
“The company became somewhat of a victim to fashion circumstances,” said Korda of Australian consumers’ shift to other cotton products as replacements for denim bottoms. He also cited intense domestic competition and the entry of cheap Asian apparel imports into the local market as factors in Bradmill’s ills.
Bradmill exports 40 percent of its products, with England’s Marks & Spencer as one of its major customers.