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Bangladeshi apparel exporters’ phones are ringing again as West begins Covid-19 jabs

  • Published at 12:03 am February 22nd, 2021
RMG worker Dhaka
A woman at work in a garment factory in Dhaka Dhaka Tribune

'Right now, we are getting a large number of queries from buyers and brands regarding new work orders'

Bangladeshi apparel exporters are witnessing an increase in interest from global buyers in placing new work orders following the commencement of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in several export destinations.

“Right now, we are getting a large number of queries from buyers and brands regarding new work orders,” said Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, owner of Fatullah Apparel.        

As the situation is improving and people are becoming interested in taking the vaccine, buyers are getting ready for the next season -- banking on a turnaround in sales, he added.  

The flow of work orders is better than before, said Mohammad Hasan, managing director of Cotton Group.

“Like in the previous months, the order trend is not fluctuating and unusual -- the present trend is close to normal,” Syed Mohammed Tanvir, managing director of Pacific Jeans, told Dhaka Tribune. 

However, Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, begged to differ.

“There is no change in the work order trend.” 

The current order volumes are 40 per cent lower than the pre-covid levels. 

“People have limited demand at this point in time. Therefore, order runs will be low anyway. Order quantities per style are bound to be low.” 

She acknowledged that the order flow is better for outerwear and knitwear products. 

“Exports are still dipping.  So I don’t know how the overall export will pick up until the West bounces back,” Huq added.

In the first seven months of this fiscal year, garment, which typically accounts for 84 per cent of the export receipts, raked in about $2.9 billion, down about 4.7 per cent from a year earlier.

However,  some of the exporters have already booked enough orders to run their factories at a sufficient capacity for the next few months. 

“I have enough work orders to run the factory for at least the next six months,” said SM Khaled, managing director of Snowtex Group.

The company has a plan to hire 2,000 to 3,000 workers this year.

The second wave of Covid-19 cases in the Western world interrupted the new order flow but it is gradually improving. 

“If there isn’t another wave, we are hoping for a recovery in orders,” Khaled added. 

Faruque Hassan, managing director of Giant Group, echoed the same.

“Orders have increased in all categories. A significant change has been noticed in the case of small quantity orders, which are mostly focused on e-commerce sales.” 

In face of soaring prices of raw materials, buyers should think about the cost of production during price negotiation, said Hassan, also a former senior vice-president of the BGMEA. 

Now, buyers are not placing bulk orders as they are focusing on online-based sales, which has become more vibrant during the pandemic, said Md. Shahidullah Azim, managing director of Classic Fashion Concept.  

“The prices are better but it hinders productivity due to the size of orders. But there is no option and we have to be accustomed to all types of work for the future. The future sales would be e-commerce,” he added. 

Fatullah Apparel used to supply for Vertbaudet, a French e-tailer, which placed orders ranging from 800 to 1,200 pieces before the pandemic. 

After the pandemic and the rise in online sales, Vertbaudet is now placing orders for 4,500 to 8,000 units in each go, according to Ehsan. 

“In the given context, I think exporters should think of changing the manufacturing pattern as the future marketplace is online,” he added.  

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