Indian garment and apparel exporters can finally breathe a sigh of relief as global fashion brands have begun placing orders for the year-end sale in global markets, albeit slightly delayed.

Industry insiders attribute the building momentum to the “anti-China” feeling in the Western markets and the consequent shift in their buying to India. In 2022-23, India’s readymade garment exports amounted to $16 billion, an increase of 1.09 per cent over the previous year.

A decline in orders was being faced by garment manufacturers, but things are improving. Even though the volume is not as huge as expected, the flow of orders means the apparel and garments should hit stores in markets such as the US and Europe for Christmas and New Year.

However, some of the companies are still in a ‘wait and watch’ mode as there is no clarity on orders among global customers, said sources.

Global brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Ross, Decathlon, Suburbia, Polo Ralph Lauren, and GAP are major customers for Indian garment exporters.

“We are expecting orders in June. While the US is positive, Europe still needs to improve,” said KM Subramanian, President, Tirupur Exporters’ Association.

N Chandran, Chairman and Managing Director of Tiruppur-based Eastman Exports, said, “Yes, the company has already started receiving orders as anticipated.” With revenues of ₹2,000 crore, Eastman Exports specialises in manufacturing knitwear, high-end apparel, and accessories for high-end global fashion brands.

The global economic slowdown, mainly in the EU, has impacted consumer spending, and demand for textile products (irrespective of the company) has declined. However, “it is a passing phase, and we are upbeat about the surge in demand for the next two years at least post the ongoing phase,” Chandran added.

The industry saw a fall in orders compared with the previous year. Large companies are expected to see a decline in turnover of the order of 10-30 per cent. Smaller companies have faced even greater difficulties.

P Sundararajan, CMD of Avinashi, Coimbatore-based SP Apparels, said the apparel industry has started doing well. Retailers are serious about transferring as much business as possible from China to India as they would see a lot of potential in India, he told analysts while discussing the company’s annual financial results. “The anti-China thing is still very strong. And we are able to experience it,” he added.

FTA talks

The free trade agreement (FTA) talks are still going on. According to information, by the end of June, it should be true for the UK and Canada. This development will be very much in favour of India, he said.

“Today, we are able to compete with duty-free countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Despite India not being under FTA, we are able to compete with them. So, when the duty-free structure comes, definitely, there is a possibility that we can gain another 4-5 per cent cost advantage,” he said.

According to Vidyuth Rajagopal, Managing Director of Chennai-based Celebrity Fashions, there were initial signs of excess inventory among brands during July and August 2022. The situation was very bad for India’s export-oriented industry from November to February.

Rajagopal emphasised the importance of monitoring consumption figures from America during the crucial months of June, July and August. “I hope consumption continues at the same pace over the next 90 days and allows brands to clear inventory,” he said.

Prabhu Dhamodharan, Convenor of the Coimbatore-based Indian Texpreneurs Federation said that the inventory exhaustion at the retailer end leads to pockets of recovery in apparel exports. Brands started calibrated buying and keeping inventories lean for consumption to stabilise.

“In such market trends, we need to be very competitive to increase our market share by using China plus one opportunity,” he said.