Euratex held its General Assembly on May 29 in Brussels in the presence of industrialists, textile and clothing (T&C) experts and EU officials under the theme: “Textile and Clothing Industry in a changing economic environment”.
In this context Euratex President Alberto Paccanelli said: “The T&C Industry in Europe is facing a challenging environment with a consumption slowdown in traditional markets, particularly in the EU countries, and increasing market opportunities in emerging economies. Our companies are adjusting to this new reality trying to seize these opportunities in spite of sometimes very difficult market access conditions. We thought it would be important to share the experience of European T&C companies active in different stages of the supply chain framed by the independent views of a EU ‘think tank’ - ECIPE- that has extensive economic and trade knowledge ”.
As key note speaker Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, from ECIPE - European Centre for International Political Economy, drew a picture of the current world market for T&C, the position of EU T&C Industry as compared to some of its major competitors and what might be the situation in future.
Among the main ideas developed by him are: (a) The EU T&C Industry is still highly dependent on the internal market and we should take advantage of the incoming Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to increase exports to Third Markets; (b) The trade growth is more important among LDCs and among developing/emerging partners (South-South Trade) but the share of EU in T&C world trade is also growing; (c) Important competitors are now investing mainly on textiles and they are also experiencing the higher growth rates in R&D spending even if the EU continues to lead in this chapter; (d) Taking into account that the overall EU share in world GDP will be cut by half in 15 years, it is key to seize business opportunities in fast growing economies; (e) The Doha Round crisis is enhancing trade regionalization with important agreements in the pipeline like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the EU-US Agreement (TTIP); (f) This should entail a consolidation of the regional supply chains as rules of origin play an important role in these agreements.
The industrialists in the panel provided a practical view of the current business environment with different strategic approaches.
Paolo Piana from Sinterama (Italy) talked about the experience of its company as specialty Yarn producer. The company made the strategic option of specialization and proximity to customers (e.g. automotive manufacturers). In this context it was decided to foster cooperation and develop joint business solutions with other companies active in key third markets. Currently the company is a global player present in important markets such as Brazil, China, Mexico or Turkey and trading worldwide.
Jean-François Gribomont from Utexbel (Belgium) gave the perspective of a fabric manufacturer producing only in the EU but exporting all over the world. The company has concentrated its strategy in providing solutions for its customers and to be successful, a considerable amount of the turnover is invested every year in product development - around 4%. To succeed in future the company needs to have access to highly qualified human resources and requests from public authorities a competitive framework that allows industry to remain in the EU as a key driver of employment. He also pointed out to the need to enhance industry-distribution relations also as a way to enhance social and environmental standards along the T&C supply chain.
Martin Strzelecki from Henri Lloyd (United Kingdom) presented the views of a specialized (sailing) clothing brand/retailer that being a family-owned SME has managed to adjust to a changing business environment by fully integrating IT technologies in their sales process. In his views the future lies in product specialization but also in ensuring that the customer is able to buy the product he wants whenever he needs it. In this context access to finance and credit insurance are critical to ensure a sustainable development for this company as is the case for other SMEs.
The debate that followed was enriching, pointing out to some of the strategic priorities of the T&C Industry in the coming years: (a) improved access to world markets, (b) favourable competitive environment in the EU, (c) enhanced cooperation between industry and distribution.
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