Powered by the country’s apex exports facilitator EDB, Lankan apparel sector reported a sudden victory when it snatched a new virgin market and some premium global buyers of three other new markets.
A visiting high powered multinational buyer team finally linked with the EDB reps and Lankan apparel giants on Nov.27 at Mt Lavinia Hotel after a three-year long resolute quest since 2012 by EDB to link with nine top global retailers.
“This is another good news for our surging apparel sector” said the State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe upon hearing the development over the phone and added: “We believe that this breakthrough could help us to move towards our new apparel export target set by the industry.”
Apparels are Sri Lanka's topmost merchandise exports and in 2014 it earned US$ 4.9 billion –just short of $ 5 Bn. (increasing by 9.2% from 2013). Last week, Sri Lanka’s apparel industry set an ambitious new export target of $10 Bn by 2025.
The visiting international buyer team, flown in by EDB, consisted of reps from top fashion retailers of Brazil, Australia, India and Denmark. “EDB’s years of efforts to get new markets such as you, the top international retail representatives, to visit Sri Lanka has worked and we thank you for meeting here this morning” said Chairperson & CEO of EDB, Indira Malwatte, addressing the global representatives. “This is the first time we meet such a group of top, new major buyers in Sri Lanka in one go. Our apparel sector now supplies to well-known labels including Calvin Klein, Gap, Marks & Spencer, and Victoria’s Secret, and we are pleased to introduce you to our apparel industry this morning” she added.
The reps in the visiting international buyer team were from Brazil (Casas Pernambucanas, Grupo Guararapes, Cia Herring), Australia (Pilot Athletic, Cotton on Group, Bein Sports, and Auluaulu International), Denmark (Day Birger Mikkelsen), and India (Raymond Apparel Limited). They were instantly wowed by the high quality of Lankan apparel produce, and promptly embarked on EDB facilitated factory visits of Lankan manufacturers on the same day. The buyers also took part in Sri Lanka Design Festival event in Colombo on 26 November. EDB estimates that Brazil’s apparel import market to be worth $2.5 Bn, Australia $6 Bn, and Denmakr $5 Bn.
A top spokesman from leading Sri Lankan apparel maker Hirdaramani Group revealed: “We are highly grateful to EDB for linking us to world’s largest textile retailer, Spain’s ‘Zara’ chain. After talks, Zara has entered Sri Lanka and now we started work with them for their requirements.” Zara, despite being the world’s largest textile retailer, does not advertise. Zara is owned by clothing group Inditex, which in turn is owned by the Spanish self-made mogul, Amancio Ortega. Spanish mogul Ortega last month briefly surpassed Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man.
“We at Auluaulu work with global brands and we usually specialize in niche apparels from Sri Lanka-Swim, Beach, Active wear and Lingerie. Among our clients are such labels as Jane Lamerton, MYER, WaterSun” said the Lankan born Australian Nirosha Fonseka (Director Marketing - Auluaulu International–Melbourne, Australia) and added: “We are happy to say that we brought down a leading Australian fitness fashion label 2XU to source from Sri Lanka. They arrived today and are now in town, meeting with Lankan apparel suppliers.”
“Casas Pernambucanas is one of the pioneering retailers in Brazil market having started almost a century ago” said Hamilton Chen (Production Manager-Casas Pernambucanas) and added: “We have heard of Sri Lanka on and off but it has been largely unknown to us. What I saw during these few hours in Sri Lankan apparel manufacturing factories really impressed and amazed me due to the level of high production quality-very frankly. In fact, we are ready once the price ranges of supplies match our requirements.” Casas Pernambucanas is the 14th largest retailer in Brazil with $1.6 Bn revenue. In 2013, it was listed as the number one Brazilian retailer.
Eagerly joining the morning session to meet new markets were Joint Apparel Association Forum Chairman Azeem Ismail, JAAF Deputy Chairman Noel Piyatilleke, and JAAF Secretary General Tuli Cooray. Several visiting buyers who did not visit Lankan apparel factories earlier were facilitated by EDB on the morning of 27 November itself for their requested visits.
The EDB’s work to facilitate the buyer delegation started way back in 2012. As a result, a year ago last October, the first ever Lankan apparel industry delegation to Spain’s Inditex took place, again facilitated by EDB. The Lankan delegation took part in a presentation by Echevarria Hernandez (General Director of Communication for Inditex SA) at Inditex offices, Spain.