Posted on

AWRIGHT DEN: Importing T-shirts

Corey Worrell

AWRIGHT DEN: Importing T-shirts

Social Share

Life is so amazing. When we stand outside the circle looking in, our communication, actions and interpretations are generally completely different to when we are within the circle.
Since 2010 I wanted to share on this topic but it never materialised. The opportunity has now presented itself and I am further motivated by an article that was published recently titled Imports Shredding T-shirt Profits.
Like most Barbadians who have travelled overseas, especially internationally, I am normally shocked at the prices of clothing in our stores, especially T-shirts. It is common to see an authentic branded T-shirt for $80–$150 or even more. I never understood why these prices were so high until I stepped inside the circle.
Most of you may not know, but I am the founder and director of a non-governmental organisation called C2J Foundation Inc., which is partially funded by a clothing company I founded called DeepRoot Clothing. Our main product is T-shirts, which we place our designs on and sell them locally, regionally and internationally.
The T-shirt business in Barbados is more frustrating and depressing than the negotiations and conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Many have started T-shirt businesses and just as many have given up on it, and this is why. On Page 347 under heading 61.09 of the Customs Act, T-shirts carry a rate of duty of 117 per cent. In case you think I made a mistake, I will state it in words: one hundred and seventeen per cent. Most other clothing carries a 20 per cent rate of duty.
I remember a few years back ordering approximately $5 000 in plain T-shirts, which would be printed here by our local printers, and was charged approximately $10 000 in customs duty. I didn’t have that amount, neither would the bank or other lending institutions loan me the money, so I had to abandon the shipment, losing all my money and product.
I was told by Customs that the product would be placed in the Queen’s Warehouse and auctioned at a later date. Unfortunately, I was never informed when the auction would take place, to allow me a chance to buy back some of the product. I did take responsibly for my lack of research before ordering and have also cautioned others thinking of starting T-shirt businesses.
Let me break down for you how the duty and taxes are calculated so you would understand why the items in the stores sometimes cost so much.
For example: you order 20 brand T-shirts online each costing BDS$50. Total cost would be $1 000.
Cost of items = $1 000; freight = $200; shipping value = $1 200.
Duty charged (117 per cent) = 117% x $1 200 = $1 404.
Updated value to be taxed = 1 200 + $1 404 = $2 604.
Vat calculated = 17.5% x $2 604 = $455.70
Total tariff charged = Duty + Vat = $1 404 + $455.70 = $1 859.70.
Price paid for items = $1 200 (including freight)
Duties charged at the Port in Barbados = $1 859.70
Total value = $3 059.70
Before duty = $60 per T-shirt
After duty = $152.99 per T-shirt.
These figures do not include customs broker fees.
It is hard running a T-shirt company in Barbados primarily due to the 117 per cent duty. If the opportunity presents itself to relocate my business, I definitely will.
You might be wondering why would a local T-shirt business owner still purchase shirts from overseas even though the duties are so high. It is all about quality, style, fabric and consistency of the shirt. For years I have mainly used Gildan shirts and they have served me well. I still see past customers wearing shirts from 2009.
The reality is that the locally produced T-shirts are not of the same quality as the international ones. I went to a local company to obtain a sample and its medium T-shirt was the same size as Gildan’s extra large. If you speak to staff of some schools and organisations, you will hear the numerous complaints as it relates to sizing, quality and fit from our local providers.
The world is producing fashion T-shirts made of ring-spun or combed cotton and 50/50 blend. My question is: what are our local companies producing?
• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.