Mississauga HQ safe for now in Forsyth plant closure

It’s unlikely Mississauga-based John Forsyth Shirt Co. will cut jobs at its local headquarters even though it’s restructuring under bankruptcy protection and closing a Cambridge plant this month.

Rick Droppo, the plant’s manufacturing director, said the 150 people employed at Forsyth’s Mississauga head office near Pearson Airport won’t be affected by the streamlining since they are executives or hold sales and administrative positions.

The shutdown of the Cambridge shirt-making plant – which made shirts for Harry Rosen and Nordstrom’s as well as uniforms – was linked to the end of a duty-free program for Canadian clothing makers.

The end of that program means Forsyth will probably never manufacture their high-end clothing in Canada again.

“It’s not that we can’t make goods here,” Bob Kirke, executive director of the Canadian Apparel Federation, told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “It’s just extraordinarily hard.”

Kirke said that the cancellation of the federal government’s duty remission program eliminated the incentive for Forsyth and other companies to keep manufacturing in the country.

The plant shutdown in Cambridge goes into effect March 12 and will cut 110 jobs.

Forsyth began operations in 1903 and now makes 90 per cent of its shirts and uniforms overseas. It has supplied Tim Hortons and the TTC in the past.

Kirke said Forsyth’s situation is largely due to duty-free agreements with low-cost garment-production countries like Bangladesh. “Well over $1 billion in apparel is coming over from there,” he explained. “Really what the government is saying now is, ‘Go ahead, just import everything.’”

Forsyth’s quality of garments certainly wasn’t to blame for the current situation. “They were the best,” Kirke said. “They weren’t cutting corners and were state-of-the art.”

While the company’s quality of products did attract retailers like Harry Rosen and Nordstrom’s, Kirke said this cut them out of other markets. “They can’t sell high-end product to a uniform guy,” he said. “They want the cheapest thing going.”

While companies like high-end parka brand Canada Goose continue to thrive while still manufacturing in the country, Kirke said they may increasingly become a rare exception in the industry. “It’s very difficult to make product here.”

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