M&S plans to buy more high-end garments from Bangladesh
A few years ago, Marks & Spencer (M&S) could not find a single factory in Bangladesh that could produce suits in bulk quantity although the country was already one of the largest apparel exporters in the world.
But things have changed as the local suppliers have diversified products and are making high-end items alongside basic garments. This shift has turned Bangladesh into the largest suits sourcing destination for the British retail giant.
Today, Bangladesh is the largest sourcing destination for M&S for apparel items, and the company buys more than $1.2 billion worth of garment items from the country every year.
And Shwapna Bhowmick, country manager of M&S, said she wanted to buy more garment items from Bangladesh because of the commitments of the suppliers and the diversification of products.
"We are no longer interested in basic garments," she said, suggesting suppliers produce more value-added items to receive higher prices.
She was speaking at a session on the garment industry at the two-day International Investment Summit organised by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority at the Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden in Dhaka.
Bhowmick also suggested for branding Bangladesh and easing of doing business.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), called for signing free trade agreements, preferential trade agreements and other regional trade agreements with trading partners to retain the duty-free export facility after the graduation of the country from a least-developed country to a developing nation in 2026.
Currently, $25 billion worth of garment items, out of a total of $34 billion, are shipped under the LDC category, he said. "So, retaining the trade advantage is important for Bangladesh after graduation."
An additional $5 billion to $7 billion worth of investment is required in the garment sector to attain the country's export targets by 2030, he said.
He expected Bangladesh's share in the global garment market to cross 7 per cent soon from 6.26 per cent last year as international retailers and brands were coming up with an increased volume of orders.
Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, said after two years, Bangladesh would not need to import yarn anymore as local investors were making fresh investment and expanding their capacity in the spinning sector.
He called for more policy supports for the growth of the primary textile sector, which includes the spinning, weaving, dyeing and printing industries.
"Many have been waiting for more than two years to get gas connections to run factories."
Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said many factories were facing a shortage of workers and called for producing skilled workforce through technical and vocational training centres.
Anwar ul Alam Chowdhury, a former president of the BGMEA, said in the post-LDC era, the garment sector would not lose businesses as the government was lobbying major trading partners to strike deals to retain the duty privilege.
Atiqul Islam, mayor of the Dhaka North City Corporation and a former president of the BGMEA, credited the people, power, port, and political stability for the amazing growth of the garment business.
He hoped that congestion in Dhaka would ease within two or three years as the government was implementing a number of mega projects, such as the metro rail and the elevated expressway projects.