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China with Hong Kong now France's biggest ready-to-wear customer

Published
today Feb 21, 2013
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Exports to Europe of women's ready-to-wear grew by 3.4% in 2012, but only 49.3% of total sales were destined for the 27 countries of the European Union, versus 56% in 2011. “This is due to two factors” explained François-Marie Grau, secretary general of the French Federation of Ready-to-wear. “First of all, the European market is sluggish, with exports on the decline. Also, its share is on the decline compared to the development of other major export markets, which are now the primary means for companies to grow.” Only the United Kingdom seems to be an exception, with exports up 10%, after increases of 11.5% and 5.3% in the previous two years. “Maybe because this is a market outside the euro zone.”

But the other major finding for 2012 is the emergence of China together with Hong Kong at the top of the list. Until now, the United States was France's most important customer, last year buying 8.9% of exports. This year for the first time, the U.S. is behind China (3.6%) and its Hong Kong hub (5.8%). And that despite the fact that for the first time exports to China were down. “We are finding the same context as the previous year, with increases in labor costs, raw materials prices and a shift towards domestic demand,” said François-Marie Grau.

After increases of 3.4 and 5.5% in 2010 and 2011, imports of women's ready-to-wear were down 3.3% for 2012. The decline was particularly felt in Asia, which represents 54.2% of total amounts imported, down 1.1% compared to 2011. Thus for the first time China experienced a decline, - 0.4% for 38.3% of total activity.
And while Bangladesh showed an increase for the third consecutive year with 18.1% over last year, other big import countries were not as lucky, such as India (-17.3%) and Vietnam (-3.2%). In terms of regional sourcing, Tunisia and Morocco both each showed decreases of 11.3% and 4.1%. However, Romania was up 13.5%. “It is not a coincidence that the countries with increases are those that have the lowest labor costs for their regions,” said Jean-Pierre Mocho, president of the Federation.

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