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High value added fashionwear: Bangladesh RMG growing big with suit

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Bangladesh’s apparel industry, from the very beginning, was well-known for making basic knitwear items that tended to fetch very low prices from foreign retailers and brands. However, nowadays, apparel manufacturers are willing to make high-end items. Along these lines, some apparel manufacturers turned into suit-making businesses – as higher margin in suit segment drawing entrepreneurs’ attention.


 Figure 1: Bangladesh has now made a giant leap forward to make a global manifestation in the mass production of suits and exporting $500 million annually. Courtesy: Ananta Group


Bangladesh has now made a giant leap forward to make a global manifestation in the mass production of suits and exporting $500 million annually.


And is presently fulfilling 12-15% of the global demand for suits, formal jackets and blazers. Not only for export purposes, but this country has a big potential value in the local fashion market which generates more revenues every fiscal year.


At present Bangladesh is in the top five leading exporters for men’s and women’s suits, blazers and trousers by value, together with China, the EU, Vietnam and Turkey. At present, 13 suit-making factories are exporting $500 million worth of suits.


According to industry experts, outerwear including jackets fetches margins of $12-$14, whereas a suit fetches $25-$28 in margins. A mid-range suit export price is between $150 and $300. While high-range value-added suits fetched around $300 and above. And a low-range suit is valued between $99 and $150 per piece.

 Figure 2: Bangladesh’s suit export capability


Profit margins for suits are 60% higher than those of trousers.


Foreign buyers choosing Bangladesh for sourcing suit


Bangladesh-made suit is attracting global buyers. Leading buyers like H&M, M&S, C&A, Zara and Jos A Bank are sourcing from the country.


A leading British retailer Country Representative said to Textile Today that the country’s suit manufacturing definitely has great prospects. She informed that Bangladesh has turned into the largest suit sourcing destination for the British brand.

  Figure 3: Profit margin of various suit ranges.


“Although there are not many value-added suit-making factories in Bangladesh we are working with the available factories. We are working a bit differently with the factories. For instance, we are doing semi-casual as people started going out in many countries and suit buying trend increased. And accordingly, we have started placing suit orders.”


She added, “The main challenge here is that most Bangladeshi suit-making factories import fabrics from China. And besides the existing increased freight charge – Chinese factories are facing severe electricity crisis leading to increase the fabric lead-time.”


“This has also opened a big door of opportunity for Bangladeshi suit-making factories in terms of developing the back-end industry to manufacture suit fabric here,” the Country Representative added.


Saifur Rahman Farhad, Head of Marketing and Merchandising, Interlink Dresses highlighted Bangladesh’s transformation in suit manufacturing capability.


Saifur Rahman said, “4 to 5 years back, when we use to approach buyers with the suit they use to be skeptical about our capability. As we were known for basic apparel manufacturing. And buyers use to source suits from China, Vietnam, etc. countries.”


“But all of a sudden when manufacturing price in China grew and at the same time Vietnam’s production hampered during the COVID – retailers ran out of sourcing option. At that time, when we offered them suits, they were elated and right away ordered from us.”


Saifur Rahman also expressed how Bangladeshi-made suits are in top demand from buyers, he added, “Normally we use to take orders 120 days before. Now buyers are asking for capacity booking 8 months prior and pleading for our capacity.”


“Meaning the projections are coming too early. Considering the fact that usually, Bangladesh works for 120 days lead-time. And buyers want to come out of it – rather placing orders in first come the first book to early secure production.”


“Most of the suit manufacturing factories capacities are booked till July to September with better prices. Now buyers are accepting our prices within 5 to 7 days. As manufacturers, we are really happy with this scenario.”


“On top of that, USA buyers are back with great quantity.”


Challenges in suit manufacturing


Though there are huge opportunities for the suit industry, manufacturers have been facing several issues hindering to growth of the segment as per its potential.


Regarding building capability to supply the suit fabrics, Abdullah Al Mamun, Vice-President of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), said, “Local textile millers do not have the noteworthy capability to supply the fabrics used in making suits despite higher demand as suit fabrics manufacturing needs huge investment. As a result, manufacturers mainly import the fabrics from China and South Korea.”


“Although, some mills have initiated it on a smaller scale but Bangladesh has a long way to go,” Mamun added.


Saifur Rahman said, “Suit factories have scarcity of skilled workers. During the COVID-19 time, the sector laid off a lot of workers. A big chunk of these workers never came back. As they have migrated – worker migration rate is high in the industry – into other businesses.”


This worker scarcity is also forcing entrepreneurs to close some production lines in the factory squeezing their profit. Not to mention that a lot of them took stimulus loans during the pandemic but due to the closing of production lines, they cannot pay the loan. Despite having greater orders, he added.


“On top of it, suit factories are facing problems from banks too. Due to the sudden influx of orders – factories are crossing the LC limits set by banks. Which is hampering the suit sector.”


“So, right now suit business is in a tight situation coupled with worker scarcity and LC limit.”


“We need urgent govt. support to extend the stimulus loan pay time. Instead of the current 36 months, it needs to be a minimum of 5 years. Then the suit sector will have better survival chance as in the long time duration, factories will be able to repay loans and keep the worker at the same time.”


From: Sayed Abdullah