War in Ukraine brings Lacoste clothing manufacturing to Viseu

  • ECO News
  • 19 October 2022

With factories in Viseu, Castelo Branco and Arganil, Goucam saved Lacoste's production in Ukraine and won a contract to make trousers and jackets. French and German brands cover losses with Inditex.

Soon after the Russian invasion began, at the end of February, José Carlos Castanheira risked a “forward movement” in the business field and managed to “pick up an order” of jackets that Lacoste had planned to place in a clothing factory in Ukraine. He contacted the businessman in charge of the industrial unit in Eastern Europe, which feared the stoppage of activity because of the war, to negotiate with the French brand the unit’s relocation to Portugal.

“We came in to solve a problem, so they were happy and saw that we have the conditions to continue to work together. We made that delivery of jackets and negotiated [the manufacture of] trousers and jackets for next season, which are the summer items we can get behind. We are entering the Lacoste supply circuit, which is a potentially interesting client”, Goucam’s CEO told ECO.

With nearly 400 workers, 285 in Viseu and the rest spread over the other factories it owns in Castelo Branco and Arganil, this clothing manufacturing group has already won another client in France this year, a market that now represents 15% of its total business. In Germany, which equalled the French quota in export destinations, which ensures almost all sales, it found two other new clients. Among them is Hugo Boss.

However, in the case of this luxury brand of German origin, the experience should stop there. The textile entrepreneur explains that “at the outset [he will] stop working with them in the season that is beginning because they are not available to pay the prices that [he needs] to practice”. “Hugo Boss is a client we started with this year. We had one of the factories working for them from April until September. Even though it didn’t have the profitability we were hoping for, we fulfilled that business all the way,” he explained.

Clients such as Lacoste or Hugo Boss came to occupy the productive space left free mainly by the Inditex group, which “failed immensely with purchases” at the beginning of this year. “They arrived at a moment when the Spaniards had no business. Especially Massimo Dutti, which was an important client for us,” he stated.

Besides remaining the most significant, the Spanish market’s importance has fallen from 85% to 50% in less than a year. Castanheira indicates that the Galician brand Inditex now has “the will and the conditions to return to previous figures”. However, the Viseu group does not have the production capacity available and does not want to “give up the clients that were present during this more difficult phase”. It feels a greater demand and needs “urgently to increase internal production in all units”. The pandemic brought an upgrade in quality but reduced quantities. In jackets, for example, it has declined from 1,110 to 700/800 pieces per day.

Another investment that will go ahead soon, which could amount to four million euros, is the unit’s expansion in Viseu by around 3,000 square metres of covered area to incorporate the cutting area back into this industrial complex. That is, reversing the decision taken a few years ago to set up a separate unit to concentrate this activity and, from there, feed the group’s three factories. “We are preparing the projects to join the new construction to the existing one,” said the businessman.