Mohiuddin Rubel, Director, BGMEA
The global fashion market is massive, versatile and difficult to categorize in terms of items and demand. However, the world’s clothing consumption can be assorted into 12 categories, more or less.
If we analyze the export performance of Bangladesh RMG sector in light of the 12 items for the year 2021, we get a comprehensive view of the industry’s strength, its current position in the global apparel market and the future prospects to grab market share. Most importantly, where the sector needs to invest more in the coming days to diversify the product basket.
There are discussions about diversifying products and markets, but not much research has been done in this area to encourage local investors to direct investment that is consistent with uncovering untapped potential, following changing trends, and developing products and markets that are focused on the long term.
This analysis gives an understanding to entrepreneurs and investors with the real picture of our exports, by category, so that we can focus more on new products and new investments and market diversification as well.
The major RMG categories in our export basket are trouser, knitted shirt, sweater, undergarments, anoraks & wind-breakers, men’s/boy’s woven shirt, babies’ garments, ladies’ shirts & blouses, coats and overcoats, suits and tracksuits, jackets and blazers, and others.
In the article, I try to share the data and trends of these 12 segments chronologically with comparative analysis to understand the position and performance, as well as market potential of Bangladesh across the world.
The size of the global trouser market was $94.27 billion in 2021 where the share of Bangladesh was 15.70%.
During the mentioned period, Bangladesh exported $14.80 billion worth trouser to the world which is 33.36% of Bangladesh’s total apparel export.
Though a significant source of this growth is caused by raw material cost hike.
As far as trousers are concerned, the major exportable items are men’s, boys’, women’s and girls’ trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts, of cotton, knitted or crocheted, synthetic fibers, textile materials, wool or fine animal hair etc.
Among them, the shares of cotton woven men’s and boy’s trousers and women’s and girls’ trousers were 24.17% and 20.03% respectively.
The share of knitted women’s and girls’ trousers and men’s and boy’s trousers were 20.58% and 13.03% respectively.
Other major trouser items with high share under this category were woven MMF men’s and boy’s trouser (10.79%), woven men’s or boy’s trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts of textile materials (11.02%), and woven MMF women’s and girl’s trouser (11.17%).
Statistics show that the global clothing consumption is estimated at $437.7 billion in 2021, where the share of trousers was 21.54%.
It indicates that there is a huge demand for trousers globally where Bangladesh has the opportunity to further penetrate the market and expand its share.
We are continuously doing better in this category and growing stronger everyday as the backward linkage industry is developing in Bangladesh.
Moreover, denim jeans are one of the major contributors within trouser industry and Bangladesh is number one denim supplier to both Europe and USA.
The key reasons for the growth in the denim sector is the local denim textile industry which has considerably developed with infrastructure, advanced technologies and technological know-how.
However, we still have an opportunity to grow more in the denim sector by moving to high value-added denim items, transferring from quantitative to qualitative production.
Bangladesh’s export in this category is worth $8.18 billion whereas the total world’s business was $49.77 billion, meaning that we have 16.44% share, and we still have the opportunity to grab more.
Out of $49.77 billion worth of knitted shirts’ market share, Bangladesh occupied 11.37%, meaning that we have space to develop and expand.
The fact remains that we are catering to mostly basic items, and we need to focus on the value-added items which are mostly catered by China and Vietnam at the moment.
Though we are not a cotton producing country yet we are doing better compared to our major competitors in this sector.
In fact, the demand for man-made fiber (MMF) products is growing more than cotton made items, so we should focus more on MMF based products.
The global sweater business was $61.21 billion, where Bangladesh exported sweaters worth $6.46 billion, with a share of 10.56% in the global market.
Sweater is 14.56% of our country’s apparel exports and based on the scenario of the global market, we still have the opportunity to grab more slices.
Sweater is a seasonal product, so when talking about diversification, we should focus on going beyond the USA/EU to regions where the seasonal cycle is different than USA/Europe, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, i.e. Australia, New Zealand etc.
Recently there has been a lot of automation in the sweater industry and it needs more investments in technology and skills development.
Undergarment is a highly untapped area where Bangladesh is increasingly focusing on recently.
So far, we don’t have significant investment and export in this category though. Bangladesh produces some basic items here but not much of the fancy items.
Moreover, we are more focused on cotton items whereas the whole world is moving towards MMF and the raw materials and expertise are not enough to feed the local manufacturing yet.
Bangladesh’s share is $ 2.41 billion in the $26.71-billion global market, only 9.03%, meaning we still have the opportunity to expand.
This $26.71-billion market is 6.10% of the world’s clothing consumption and due to the change in life-style,the industry will grow more compared to other items.
Undergarment export is currently 5.43% of Bangladesh’s apparel export which is also pretty insignificant in our export basket. The more the MMF based backward linkage industry will grow the more the export in this category.
The potential of growth in this sector is huge for our county and encouragingly this category has seen significant rise in exports in recent years.
Most of the raw materials for manufacturing this category are imported which means the more backward linkage industry will grow the export of this item will grow too.
Bangladesh exports $1.92 billion worth of this item where the total world’s trade was $23.98 billion, meaning we have 8.03% market share.
This item occupies 5.48% share of the world’s total clothing consumption, putting Bangladesh to concentrate more on this item.
Bangladesh should also concentrate on non-traditional markets like Latin America, Australia etc, as they have a varied seasonal cycle than USA and Europe.
Bangladesh has a comparatively better portion in the world market for this category, exporting $1.72 billion or 17.35% share of the $9.89-billion global market.
Moreover, these items mark 2.26% share of the world’s clothing consumption.
It is a traditional item and we have proven competitive advantage.Now we need to strategize on more value addition as we have opportunity to grow by setting up strong backward linkage and developing expertise.
Bangladesh exported the item worth $1.55 billion where the global market was$10.38 billion, 2.37% of global clothing consumption.
The 14.90%-share in the global market means we still have the opportunity to grab a big slice.
Currently, consumers are more aware about baby items, especially since the pandemic.
In Bangladesh, a large portion of factories don’t produce baby items but focus more on men’s, women’s, and girl’s products.
However, producing baby items is a little challenging for us as it is totally cotton-based and we are not a cotton producing country, so we have to compete with cotton producing countries.
Meanwhile, baby items will be more profitable than common products for Bangladeshi entrepreneurs as the number of factories producing this item are less here.
Bangladesh has grown a lot in terms of security and compliance, so we can invest more in this category in the coming days.
Ladies shirts, blouses
The industry has so far seen insignificant progress in this category particularly due to lack of insufficient backward linkage support and expertise as we can see that only Bangladesh exported only $1.03 billion worth of ladies’ shirts and blouses whereas the global trade was $15.01 billion (3.43% of world’s total clothing consumption), meaning we have a share of 6.89%.
So, we still have an enormous scope to grow in this category.
Some of the major roadblocks in investments in this category are critical production processes than other basic items that we used to do.
As we are pursuing the strategy of higher value addition, we should invest more here as the opportunity to grow in such a category is huge too. Ladies shirts and blouses are only 2.32% of our total apparel export.
Coats and overcoats
There are only a few factories that can manufacture coats and overcoats, and mostly FDI based.
Our government welcomes FDI a lot now so we must welcome joint ventures (JV) with countries that have better technical knowledge.
Bangladesh exported this item worth $0.75 billion whereas the world’s market was worth $18.43 billion (4.21% of global clothing consumption), meaning we have 4.04% share in the global market.
As this item is more of a value-added item, the free on board (FOB) price is higher and if we can progress more in this category the export earnings and retention will increase. To do this, we need to enhance technical know-how, sufficient backward linkage.
This item grabbed only 1.70% of Bangladesh’s total apparel export.
Suits and tracksuits
This item is only 1.03% of our total RMG export, very negligible, compared to the world market. There are a few factories for suits in our country.
Impediments to investing in this category is a lack of technical knowledge which means we should pursue JVs to bring in FDI and expertise.
Bangladesh exports $0.46 billion worth of suits and tracksuits whereas the world’s total export was $14.51 billion(3.31% share of the world’s total clothing consumption)meaning we have 3.19% share.
Jackets and blazers
Like coats, overcoats and suits, jackets and blazers also have almost the same challenges and possible opportunities.
Bangladesh exported the items worth $0.44 billion where the world’s total trade was $13.44 billion meaning we have 3.25% global share.
This means we still have the opportunity to grow more in the sector which is only 1% of our total apparel export.
Bangladesh’s export of other category products is worth $4.64 billion where the total world’s business was $100.10 billion (22.87% of total export) and we have a share of 4.64%.
Based on this data, we can see the opportunities to grow and if we can develop the backward industry, invest more in technology and concentrate on new markets and diversify new products.
This also means ensuring adequate supply of gas and power, increasing the ease of doing business.
If all of the above are met, there is a huge potential for the RMG sector to contribute even more to the economy.
The author is director of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and additional managing director of Denim Expert Ltd