Home News Cape Union Mart’s K-Way factory transformed into mask-producing hub

Cape Union Mart’s K-Way factory transformed into mask-producing hub

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The company hopes to have inventory in all Cape Union Mart stores and through its online portal as soon as they are allowed to open.

CAPE TOWN – Outdoor retailer Cape Union Mart has reopened its K-Way factory in Ottery, Cape Town, turning its high-tech factory towards producing cloth face masks to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), as well as rapidly increase the supply of much-needed masks.

The K-Way factory, which is renowned for producing gear and apparel for various outdoor pursuits, employs more than 200 skilled employees, who produce outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment that have been vetted and tested by its team of outdoor experts.

African News Agency (ANA) had the opportunity to chat to the executive chairman of the Cape Union Mart Group, Phillip Krawitz, on the decision to reopen the K-Way factory to produce these much-needed face masks during the national lockdown.

When asked how the company got involved in producing cloth face masks, Krawitz said: ”We believe that business exists to satisfy the needs of society. It is obvious why we got involved with the production of face masks. There is global evidence to prove that the use of non-medical masks by the wider population can play a seminal role in limiting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and flattening the curve. We are therefore obliged to do what we can to assist.”

He added: “We have been working closely with Stellenbosch University to produce a unique mask which incorporates a removable filter made from a special material developed right here in South Africa.”

According to Krawitz, the company is currently manufacturing both polycotton and 100% polyester masks at the K-Way factory.

“Our initial test results show that the 100% polyester is the most suitable. We have been sourcing all fabric locally but may have to resort to importing fabric if supplies dry up. The removable inserts are manufactured locally using a unique process. Furthermore, our Keedo factory is manufacturing 100% cotton masks for children.”

Krawitz says that for several weeks they have been involved in educating staff in terms of the need for regular, thorough hand-washing, maintaining physical distance, using hand sanitiser and wearing face masks.  

“Our K-Way factory is also working on the development of medical gowns and hazmat suits for front-line medical personnel. Fortunately, our seam-sealing technology and sew-free methodologies make K-Way ideally suited to the manufacture of these items,” added Krawitz.

Krawitz said they are limiting the number of staff operating at any one time.

“Needless to say, the provision of masks to all our staff will take priority. Whilst we have huge orders to fill for key personnel in various sectors, we are endeavouring to ensure that as soon as Cape Union Mart is able to trade online and/or open its stores, the masks will be readily available.” 

“We will be selling the masks with inserts in packs of three to ensure that customers are able to wear one, have one in the cupboard and one in the wash. The packs will include 10 additional free inserts. The three masks with 10 inserts will be priced at R99,” added Krawitz.

Citing the impact of the national lockdown, Krawitz said: “The effect of the lockdown on Cape Union Mart is absolutely massive.  We have zero turnover from our more than 300 stores and we are not permitted to operate our online business. We currently have more than 12,000 online orders waiting to go out immediately the ban is lifted.”

Krawitz continued: “We have rent to pay and salaries to meet. We have paid our staff 100% of their salaries for March. Although certain categories of higher earners will be taking pay cuts for April, all staff will once again be paid. Needless to say, taking into account our overhead costs and obligations to our suppliers, our cash flow will be under severe pressure.”

The company said they have received orders from government entities, major corporates and individual customers.

To ramp up production, Cape Union Mart says it is farming out sewing operations to small CMT operators in the Western Cape in a bid to keep these operators in business and create more jobs. 

Meanwhile, government and bulk orders will be channelled through Sparks & Ellis, the company’s uniform contracts division, while corporate orders will be handled by the Cape Union Mart corporate division. 

 The company hopes to have inventory in all Cape Union Mart stores and through its online portal as soon as they are allowed to open.

– African News Agency