Suits, blazers emerging as strong export items
Suits and blazers have emerged as one of the most promising value-added apparel items from Bangladesh as local entrepreneurs train their focus on grabbing a share of the $52 billion tailoring market.
Bangladesh's men's tailoring industry now exports $200 million worth of products, up from about $20 million even 3-4 years ago.
Even five years ago, there was only one suit manufacturing factory in Bangladesh.
Now, the number is more than six, said Humayun Rashid, managing director of Energypac Fashions, one of the leading suit exporters from Bangladesh. The company ships suits worth $26 million a year.
“We have set a target to export $100 million worth of suits by 2021,” said Rashid. He said his factory in Gazipur is fully loaded with work orders from Western retailers.
To facilitate the achievement of the target, he has chalked up an expansion plan for next year.
The total workforce in Energypac's suit-making unit will be 4,000 next year, up from 3,100 at present.
“The value addition in the suits segment is very high,” he said.
The cutting and making charges for suits range between $6 and $8 per unit whereas sometimes a dozen of T-shirts from Bangladesh are sold at $6.
The retailers pay between $15 and $30 for a piece of suit from Bangladesh, Rashid said. Apart from China, Vietnam, India and Turkey, European countries like Italy, France, Portugal, Bulgaria and Romania manufacture suits on an industrial scale.
“But we have a lot of prospect in this specialised product. So we have started training the workers as craftsmanship is a big matter in this product,” he added.
The UK, the US, Japan and Germany are the major export destinations for suits and blazers from Bangladesh. Swedish retail giant H&M and British retailer Marks & Spencer are the major customers of suits and blazers from Bangladesh, exporters said.
Asif Ibrahim, vice-chairman of Newage Group, another leading garment exporter, said he has established blazer factory with his Hong Kong-based business partner at Ashulia three years ago.
The factory employs 1,200 workers and has production capacity of 1 lakh pieces a month.
“I mainly export suits to the EU and the US,” Ibrahim said, adding that he gets $10 to $12 for a blazer.
Like Rashid, he too is mulling over expanding his suit-manufacturing line as China is progressively walking out of this segment.
“This has created scope for Bangladesh,” he said, while citing a shortage of skilled manpower in this emerging sub-sector as a barrier.
Similarly, Asif Zahir, a director of Ananta Group, a leading garment exporter, said he also manufactures 1 lakh pieces of suits a month at his factory in Adamjee Export Processing Zone.
“The suit industry is a specialised one. It will take time to be a major producer of suits, although we have the buyers and technologies,” he said, adding that the suits yield a good margin.
It is not possible to receive $20 from a T-shirt but it is possible to get more than $20 from a suit, Zahir added.
And yet the promising sector is struggling to lure in the scale of investment that denim, another value-added segment, has managed.
For instance, Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of Envoy Group, a leading apparel exporter, has no plans to dive in to the suit manufacturing. Instead, he is concentrating on consolidating his denim manufacturing capabilities.