U.S. retail groups are feeling the sting from COVID-related factory closures abroad. Now, some are urging President Joe Biden to send vaccines to impacted regions like Vietnam to mitigate the impact on the industry.
In a letter sent to the president on Friday, the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) asked that the Biden Administration send additional vaccines to key apparel and footwear partners in Asia, particularly in Vietnam, the second-largest supplier of footwear to the United States behind China.
Biden previously announced on Thursday that the U.S government would send 500 million additional vaccine doses to developing and low-income countries. In his letter to the president, SFIA president and CEO Thomas Cove welcomed this news, yet highlighted the urgent need to expand these efforts in Vietnam.
“Our industry has never experienced global disruptions and pricing dislocations of this magnitude,” wrote Cove. “With Vietnam being the second-largest foreign source of sports and fitness products to the United States, we ask that you support an aggressive effort to direct vaccine/testing/PPE resources to Vietnam and other key American partners.”
Since July, factories in Vietnam have been shut down due to COVID-19-related issues. The closures, which have gone on for 10 weeks, have been especially problematic for athletic footwear and apparel brands that rely on supply operations in the region.
Nike has had no unit production in Vietnam for over two months since two of its footwear suppliers in Vietnam stopped manufacturing in July. Vietnam previously accounted for 51% of Nike’s footwear and 30% of apparel units last year.
In a July letter, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) also requested in a letter that Biden focus vaccine distribution on supply partner countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
“Without such a surge in targeted distribution of vaccines, COVID will instead destroy the very industries that these countries depend on for their economic livelihoods,” wrote AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar. “Thanks to your leadership, the United States is the only country that can provide these vaccines, now.”