Clothes from India and Pakistan continue to dominate the Bangladesh's apparel market ahead of the peak sales season of Eid-ul-Fitr thanks to their affordability and attractive designs.
“Salwar suits and sarees mostly come from India,” said Khalilur Rahman, who has a store in the capital's Bashundhara City.
Female customers prefer foreign clothes for their quality of fabrics and design variations.
“Indian visas are easy to get and small entrepreneurs declare going on tours, only to return with their hand luggage full of products,” Rahman added.
The scenario is no different at cheaper shopping options such as New Market, Gausia Market and Chandni Chowk, where merchandise from the neighbouring countries dominate the store fronts.
People start their Eid shopping from the first weekend of Ramadan and female customers are mostly allured by the imported salwar suits, said shop owner Jamilur Rahman in New Market.
About 45 percent of the clothes in his store was from India, some from Pakistan and the rest sourced locally. “We see a habit among female customers to always ask where a product originated from. Such questions indicate they are expecting to hear India or Pakistan,” he said.
Rahman said he had local wares but most of them are made of costly cotton fabrics, prompting customers to turn to cheaper Indian synthetic-based ones. The imported salwar suits mostly range between Tk 1,500 and Tk 5,000 in New Market and Gausia Market, he said.
Local brands are doing well but their growth is slow for a lack of customer trust on their product quality, said Hamidur Rahman, another Bashundhara shop owner.
“I prefer foreign clothes as the quality is much better than local dresses,” said shopper Samia Jaman while trying to choose one for her daughter in Bashundhara City's Infinity Mega Mall.
In Chandni Chowk, Tohfatul Ferdous was bargaining with a salesperson. She finally paid Tk 2,000 for a locally-made salwar suit bearing a Tk 3,500 price tag.
“I bought this for my sister as an Eid gift and I think it is affordable, comfortable as well as fashionable,” she said with a broad smile.
Ferdous had brought along her mother and child. “I started my Eid shopping today (Saturday). I have already bought two panjabis for my father and father-in-law. I have not started shopping for myself,” she said.
Customer presence was large with retailers recalling that the momentum picked up just after Mid-Sha'ban with focus on unstitched salwar suits.
Customers this year are opting for locally-made cotton clothes as it is summer, said salesperson Harun at Foisal Tex. “Now shoppers do not come looking for dresses they see in Hindi serials such as the 'Pakhi Dress'.”
Sales so far has been good but Harun expects it to accelerate from Wednesday. Some local brands are importing clothing from India to meet customer demand, said Shahin Ahmed, chief executive officer of local brand Anjans.
Imported clothing still dominate the market for the mindset that foreign products are better, he said. Ahmed informed that annual sales of local fashion houses amount to about Tk 8,000-Tk 10,000 crore.