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Talking strategy: sourcing for the EU and US apparel markets—winners and losers
published in Issue 36, August 2017
Apparel suppliers in proximity to the EU and US markets are losing share to lower cost countries in Asia—in spite of their competitive advantage of being able to deliver more quickly in response to the demands of fast fashion. In the EU market, apparel imports from Morocco increased by only 4.6% in volume terms in 2016, those from Turkey were up by just 4.0% and imports from Tunisia fell by 0.4% whereas imports from Cambodia soared by 16.3%. In the US market, apparel imports from Mexico declined by 2.1% and those from Honduras were down by as much as 3.0%. But imports from Vietnam shot up by 6.9%—which contrasted with a 1.1% decline in US apparel imports from all sources. However, while suppliers in proximity to the EU and US markets did less well than a number of low cost Asian suppliers, many gained share at the expense of China—even though the average price of EU apparel imports from China fell by a sharp 8.2% and the average price of US apparel imports from China fell by 6.8%. China is losing competitiveness as its labour costs continue to rise and labour shortages worsen. These problems have prompted several Chinese suppliers to invest in other countries—notably Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam—in order to take advantage of their lower labour costs, plentiful supplies of labour, free trade agreements and special arrangements offering duty-free access to export markets. In this edition of "Talking strategy", Robin Anson examines the factors driving growth in the global apparel market and developments in fibre consumption per head in different regions of the world, and he identifies the "winners" among suppliers to the EU and US apparel markets and also the "losers", including China. However, China continues to be the dominant supplier worldwide and no other country comes near in terms of market share—not even Bangladesh or India.
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