In a small factory in Bavaria, Adidas is about to do something that it has not tried for three decades: bring shoe production back to Germany.
After a six-month trial, the world’s second largest sportswear group has decided to start a large-scale production next year at a custom-built, highly-automated facility near Ansbach. Combined with another factory to be built in the US, Adidas plans to produce about one million running shoes in developed markets within the next three to five years.
In the past 30 years, when Western manufacturers were busy shifting production to emerging economies in an attempt to cut their labour costs, such a move would have been unimaginable. But as wages rise in China, and advances in robotics allow more tasks to be automated, there are signs that the tide may be turning.