Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Ping's Fabric Limited, the 22- year-old retail and wholesale operation owned by Lorenzo 'Chippy' Pearson and David Ingledew, will open its first store in Montego Bay next Monday, a maiden effort by the chain to serve the north coast market.
The retail operation located at Church Lane in the heart of the shopping district will feature two floors of display. The space is leased.
Nine staff members will bring the total staff complement at Ping's to just over 100 across the chain, Operations Manager George Beckford said on Tuesday.
Declining to disclose the sum being invested in the new location, Beckford said that the new store was established in response to years of demand coming both from Montego Bay and nearby regions, but which was delayed for want of a central location in the city.
Other Ping's stores are located on the south coast in Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland; Mandeville in Manchester; May Pen, Clarendon; Spanish Town, St Catherine; and Half-Way Tree and downtown Kingston. Pearson and Ingledew also own Silk & Satin, which caters to an 'up-market' clientele from its one location at Sovereign Plaza in Liguanea, and is also run by Beckford.
"We are very strong in the retail fabric market," said Beckford who declined to provide an estimate of the market's value.
The back-to-school season is Ping's best period, Beckford said. Sales also rise during June and December which are traditional for weddings, and during the Christmas season.
"We are a strong retail brand and it did not happen overnight. We have worked hard in getting where we are; and now we are at the top of the list," Beckford said.
The general fabric industry has been affected by the fallout of a number of clothing manufacturers who went out of business after the financial crisis in 2008, and due to rivalry from "cheap inflows of manufactured goods from China".
The fallout, he said, has also been compounded by the failure of some local garment manufacturers to improve finishing and packaging to the level required to compete with imported items.
But, there are some producers who remain in high demand because of the quality of their work and who charge above market prices but retain their core clientele, Beckford said.
"I still have my coats and suits made," he said.
Other sources of demand for fabrics include the makers of bags, including totes and pouches, and upholsterers. Ping's wholesale clients also include events planners and other stores, Beckford said.