Borås was established for almost 400 years ago and has long traditions within trade and textile. The city is situated close to Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg (see figure 1).
The city’s population grew especially around the mid-1900th century when the textile industry started growing. For many years, Borås was one of the most expanding regions in Sweden. However, the structural transformation within the textile industry hit Borås hard in the 60’s and 70’s. Many companies closed down and outward migration increased. The town has today around 74 000 inhabitants. See figure 2 for population trends in Borås city since 1960.
Future, national investments in high speed train between Stockholm and Gothenburg, within the National Negotiation on Housing and Infrastructure, are expected to have positive effects on Borås’ population size, labor market and industries in the future.
The transformation of textile industry
The closeness to water was one of the factors behind Borås becoming an important location for textile and fashion. Over the years a geographic concentration of manufacturing of clothes and cloth grew in Borås. This attracted workers and competences, which then led to new companies starting. Mail-order companies also opened in Borås in the 1940-50’s. Up until the 60’s, two thirds of all industrial workers in Borås, worked within the textile and fashion industry. The number of jobs started decreasing within the industries in the 1950’s due to the high wages in Sweden. The crisis within textile and fashion in the 60-70’s led to that a third of the workers in 1950 had left by 1975, and only one fourth of the jobs remained within the industries.
One example of a company that rose in the region and fell with the textile and fashion crisis, was Algots. The company opened in Borås in 1907 and introduced assembly lines in the 1930’s (see Figure 3). The company grew after WW2 even more and experienced shortage of workers, leading them to attract workers from other parts of Europe. To tackle the new rules of the game in the trade market in the 60-70’s Algots expanded in Portugal and Finland in the late 60’s to find cheaper labor. Yet Algot’s went bankrupt in 1977 and 825 workers lost their jobs at Algots in Borås.
Today many known textile and fashion chains still have their head offices in Borås, such as Hemtex, Gina Tricot, Svea, 8848 Altitud and Oscar Jacobson. Traditions of trade and textile can also be seen today through mail-order companies and modern e-shopping still playing an important role in the economy. Mail-order companies with long traditions in Borås, such Ellos Group and Cellbes still remain in the city. H&M Online can also be found here. Knowledge and competences within logistics and distribution, have further spilled over to other industries such as engineering industry.
Closeness to higher education
Education in textile in Borås dates back to 1866. The Swedish School of Textile became a part of University of Borås in 1982. The school moved into one of the old textile factories in 1989 and at this point also started a center for textile and fashion. Residing in a full scale factory gave the school many structural benefits. Since 2014, the Swedish School of Textile reside in another old textile factory which has been rebuilt into a science park, Textile Fashion Center.
The presence of the Swedish School of textile have been important for Borås to keep their niche and related companies after the crisis. A focus on smart textiles in the school was initiated in 2003. This has been one important step for Borås in going from a traditional manufacturing city into being a region with a complex and knowledge-intensive business that focuses on design, logistics and advanced product and process development.