HARARE textile firm Paramount Garments has scheduled to start partial operations at the troubled Bulawayo-based Archer Clothing Manufacturers this month, a development likely to see the re-engagement of part of the 850 jobless former employees.
In an interview with Southern Eye Business, Paramount managing director Jeremy Youmans said they had started renovations on the building they bought from Lasker Brothers (Pvt) Ltd, the sister company to Archer.
Paramount Garments bought the building from Lasker Brothers (Pvt) Ltd currently in liquidation, last month for $400 000.
“We are in the process of trying to take over Archer Clothing and rebuild it to its full capacity. The Lasker Brothers’ property is a key part of the business as it houses the main factory,” Youmans said.
“This has enabled us to start essential renovations on the building to enable manufacturing to start again. We hope to be employing a small workforce in September.
We would then like to grow the company back to its capacity of 850 employees, but that will be largely defendant on how successful that one creditor is able to further delay the process.
“We improved the current shop behind the Archer factory, which Archer was selling direct to the public and stocked it with the full range of Paramount goods as well as casual wear in the old styles under Salty, Lazy Sam and Archer. This is doing well, but it is the factory we need to get going to really make a difference,” he said.
Youmans said if they gained full control of the business, they would need to invest $5 million to get Archer back to full capacity.
He added that employees they engage would become members of the Clothing Industry Pension Fund.
Youmans lamented that Archer was still in provisional liquidation, pointing out that although all but one of the creditors had agreed to their offer to take over the firm, the process was continually being frustrated by bureaucratic procedures.
Archer was placed under judicial management in 2010 after failing to raise working capital and subsequently provisional liquidation last year.
Its machinery is outdated and expensive to maintain while the company had to contend with power cuts and cheap imports.
Take over negotiation started last year after the two firms initially entered into a cut, make and trim deal. Under the deal the Harare company supplied clothing material and labour while Archer provided the working space.
Archer was one of the biggest employers in Bulawayo with an average of 500 employees, most of which were laid off in 2010 when the company was placed under judicial management.
The problems at Archer Clothing mirrors the decline of the textile sector, which used to employ over 35 000 workers and produce 135 million garments annually.
The sector is now only producing around 7 000 garments per year.