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Japan in search of China's substitute to import apparels
Aug '12
Japanese textiles and apparel buyers, wholesalers and retailers are on the lookout of a production base to replace dependence on China, said a top official of a Japanese textile importers body. Data reveals a decline in Japanese garment imports from China in the last four years.

Textile and apparel exporters in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and many other Asian countries have a lot to cheer. The China-plus-one policy adopted by the Japanese government seems to have worked in reducing market share of Chinese exports of apparels to Japan.

Although Japanese garment imports from China have risen in the last three years, the market share by value and volume of Chinese exports has slipped. While on one hand, Japanese apparel imports from China have surged to US $20.36 billion in 2011 from $19.18 billion in 2009.

On the other, volume wise, share of Chinese garment exports to Japan have dipped from 89.8 percent in 2009 to 81.6 percent in the first six months of 2012. Value-wise they have dipped from a market share of 84 percent to 77.4 percent in the same period, data from the Japanese Textile Importers Association (JITA) reveals.

“The Japanese government or various associations have nothing to do with the China-plus-policy. It is up to the importers, whether they are retailers or traders to decide as to where they want to import from or choose an alternative country”, a top official of JITA told fibre2fashion.

Japan is the third largest importer of clothing in the world after the European Union and US. In 2011, it imported apparels totaling to US $29.24 billion and in the first half of 2012, value of imports has reached $14.70 billion. This is a market, which each and country would like to grab.

It is a known fact that production costs have shot up in China, which has made apparel produced in the country uncompetitive to those produced in countries like Bangladesh or Cambodia. This factor is also responsible for Japanese apparel importers moving away from China to other countries.

“Japanese textile and garment importers are the lookout for a country to reduce dependence on China. However, they are not just looking for low-cost destinations. The garment factories in those countries must be able to meet the exacting quality standards demanded by Japanese consumers”, the official informed.

Explaining attributes of the Japanese market, he said, “The Japanese market is highly sophisticated and buyers look for small lots with shorter lead times. Consumers demand very high-quality products, consignment sales are still the traditional way of doing domestic business in Japan and not the least is a highly competitive market.

Bangladesh and Myanmar are a few of the destinations that the Japanese are looking at. One of the biggest apparel retailers in Japan – Uniqlo has shown its intent to move its production base from China to Myanmar. A few Japanese apparel buyers have opened offices in Bangladesh in a bid to move closer.

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